“Writing is a kind of wrestling w/ the opacities of our own understanding, with the limits of the language we use. And like Jacob’s wrestling w/ the angel, it is done to win a blessing.” (Pat Lowther, unpublished essay, 1964/65)
This evening, I read three poems as part of the Dead Poets portion of the Tree Reading Series in Ottawa. I chose Lowther because rather than introducing a writer whose work has influenced my own, I preferred to engage with a writer whose work I knew only superficially. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to engage w/ another Canadian writer. And I really did want to delve into Lowther’s work, what she produced and what affinities there were for me in my own writing.
I had lots to say in my little intro and there wasn’t enough time to say all of it, so maybe I’ll make a longer blog post about it this week. But for now, an excerpt of the last piece I read, part three of a three part poem:
3. The Machinery
The machinery is, in abstract, like a space wheel in orbit. Stately precise turning into and out of sunlight. If we were separate from it, it would seem lovely. We would breathe in delight seeing it in a movie.
The machine is, of course, a centrifuge. We’re locked on its outside walls by the magnetic soles of our feet, the veins branching downward. I think of a glass anatomical model of a man, with an erection.
As if the earth had gone transparent and its gross axis become visible, turning us. Like a drill-core spectrum, a blackened rainbow, the red orange yellow at the centre, coal pools, moving capillaries of water. The ends themselves hard glossy white, ice that never melts. The effortless spin of the thing generating so much brute power.
Sometimes I think I can see you across the curvature of the walls. We might reach out, try to touch.
But the machine holds us motionless. Our muscles flatten, our veins and arteries spread out like maps. We are splayed, pinned down on separate beds, in separate cities.
I’m turning downard into sleep. I will not dream of you. Slowly, slowly, it’s turning you toward your morning. You are beginning to remember me.
Part of part 3 of a prose-poem/essay in The Collected Works of Pat Lowther, edited by Christine Wiesenthal, New West: April 2010.