An exquisitely musical and meditative new voice in Canadian poetry.
In her debut collection, Karen Enns’ focus is the beauty present to us in almost every moment, however mundane or apparently lost. Her argument is that the act of attention itself is the most fundamental of these beauties.
And when the rooms were bare and windowless, and the winds came with their black rain and the darkness
and the coats on nails like frameless men, the pockets hollow-mouthed, I wanted this:
to see the shape of things completely, every darkness, every rise and fall, small breath. – from “Confession”
That Other Beauty ranges across memories of a farm childhood, and further back, to the Mennonite exodus from Russia. We encounter immigrants, furnace repairmen and grocers, dead cats, a raven lifting into “the clear, bright density of rain.” Enns meditates on Bach, on solitude, and on exile both accidental and imposed, weaving darkness and light with great fidelity and authority.
Karen Enns’s new book of poetry, That Other Beauty, is attracting lots of buzz now that it’s been nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award for the best first book of poetry. These poems are exquisite in their ability to capture the small things in life – gestures, fleeting beauty, intricate “[g]rains of remembering” (61), all that it means to be human.
Here is the strange, the other beauty, the one that makes us tremble a bit when we read these poems. There is a purity in them, a rare and intimate choosing of images and ideas that can only be described as rightness, a delicate felicity of phrasing and rhythms that undoes me each time I turn to their quietness. Karen Enns is a gift to what I can only call song, an offering to "the wide open mouth of the heart."
Karen Enns has written a serious book of poems worthy of our serious consideration and attention - but the poet is quite willing to take a poke at her own solemnity. These very human poems move the reader with subtle shifts in tone, Enns is in full control and speaking with a very authoritative voice.