Monday, December 07, 2015

Recent Reads: Culls by Roland Prevost

Culls by Roland Prevost (above/ground press, 2015)

Although bookended by poems about a tropical escape, Culls is less preoccupied with contrasting locales than it is balancing an inner conflict: fear of some unknown malady and gratitude for the presence that fear has made possible. The threat posed at the outset of “Seeds, on Rock Again” has no concrete form but Ottawa poet Roland Prevost ensures the stakes feel real: 

"Stand. Stare at the dry ground where
nothing grows. Crossed fingers hide
inside pockets. Last glass bottle of cold
water soothes a final parched throat. Enough
to fuel a desperate play. One meant
to unhinge. Either us, or these locked doors."

This early stanza, which structurally resembles about half of Culls, marks a notable shift for Prevost, after Singular Plurals (Chaudiere Books, 2014) constantly stretched, tightened and fractured its lines on an impressionistic metric. Here the relative directness affirms a sense of urgency, of basking in each fleeting moment. Prevost engages the natural world for solace and interprets an experience with a dragonfly from two distinct vantage points. From "Grounded to Airborne":

"The sepia colour of memory, too long
from the darkroom bath. A dragonfly close-up, 
my solitary index offered as a perch. Its seeming
friendliness, ad hoc, filled-in. As with all fictions.
Willing fools, we cram every blank space with connection." 

And an excerpt from "Knack to Promise":

"Rust string spun transformer-like round
my bent index anchors your paper flight;
a dragon less tyrannical. Many wishes tax
the voltage of your Talisman powers,
from this place. Mine’s to know what you know.
Minus the pompous tones, I mean. I’m in a mood 
to hear simpler godly things. Hard decades spent
asking, as against your easy millennia. Fruits of this."

In both poems Prevost attempts to reconnect with his mystical state but the natural world is either supplanted (by a photograph) or mechanized (through the “transformer-like” reenactment of a long-gone moment). Progressing from resignation in the former poem to openness in the latter doesn’t necessarily yield new results, but it does see the frustration of unattainable knowledge convert into a calmer, personalized faith. Wisely, that faith — much like the threat that spawned it — is conveyed more through feeling than exposition. And as this excerpt from "Crabdance Lessons" suggests, a change in perspective can be metamorphic:

"When riding on these waves

it's the view not the world

bobbing up & down"

Through doubt, superstition and joy, Prevost's subtle pacing toward self-discovery forms the heart of Culls. By the time a suite called “Five Cuban Poems” completes the chapbook, each a recollection of sun-kissed imagery and weathered textures, Culls has earned its newfound peace. 

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