Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Poem of the week: Canada by Katherine Stansfield

A hymn to the elemental power of the country’s raw landscape, this is also a lonely variety of love poem

Monday 24 November 2014   

Canada, Rocky Mountains
'No one comes' … Maligne River in the Rocky Mountains. Photograph: De Agostini/Getty Images
Canada, from Katherine Stansfield’s lively first collection, Playing House, has some of the restless vocal complexity of a Baroque fugue. A more obvious literary relative would be the sestina. In fact, Canada seems to adapt a few sestina-like techniques, while firmly announcing that, no, it’s not a sestina, nor would wish to be. For a start, there are five rather than six-and-a-half stanzas, each with seven lines rather than six: the lines vary in length so, visually, the poem has an un-sestina-like rugged (mountainous?) outline.

It sings more than most sestinas. But both fugue and sestina are forms constrained by fixed rules of repetition. Canada has multiple repetands, but no obvious symmetrical plot for their appearance (unless sharper ears than mine can discern one).

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