Kathleen Fraser's poetry has dealt fragments for many happy years - happy
to be in that dynamic world where things develop, change, and "wholeness"
is not a thing to be treasured for its own sake. "An isolated fact, cut
loose from the universe, has no significance for the poet. It derives its
significance from the reality to which it belongs" she quotes, from
Wallace Stevens, at one point - and sheers off to present other
informations, from other realities. The process, refined and enhanced over
three decades, is one not of disruption, but of assemblage, reminiscent to
me of some of Lee Harwood's work at some points, particularly when she
ducks in and out of narratives:
"This is a story where the lake is expensive watercolor paper
erased in the middle to a worn-through impurity.
You are rowing and it does or doesn't matter."
[Electric railway, 1922, two women}
Into these assemblages Fraser admits - encourages and delights in -
mistakes (one poem is called "boundayr"):
"She wanted a "flow" she thought, but in the translation it was corrected,
displacing the _o_ and substituting _a_."
[this. notes. new year.]
This predisposition to fragment, to error, makes Fraser a natural
celebrant of endangered, marginalised things - and for me a key piece in
the book is "Etruscan Pages" - a wonderfully plural work where
here-and-now present tense things mix with fragmentary relics of the
(mostly erased) Etruscan past, mix with letters to friends (and what a
curious blurring of time frames letters make) and so on:
"With dreamed stylus in wakeful hand - and many empty pages - I send you
love, imagining you hals in, half out of the water."
[from Etruscan Pages]
In extended sequences like this, Fraser's confident experimenting really
has room to develop - and what comes through all the time - to me - is her
inventiveness, her keen ear for the way her materials link and interact.
OK. This has been a welcome for Kathleen Fraser's _il cuore : the heart_
Selected Poems 1970-95, Wesleyan UP, $16.95. Wesleyan are distributed in
UK by University Press of New England, but I don't have a Sterling price.
Kathleen Fraser will read in the UK at various locations - Subvoicive,
University of Plymouth, Bunting Centre in Durham for instance - but I'll
leave them to follow up with specifics if they haven't already done so.
Durham University Library, Stockton Rd., Durham DH1 3LY, UK
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Phone: +44 (0)191 374 3044 Fax: +44 (0)191 374 7481
"Words! Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write."
- Basil Bunting