‘courtship of lapwings’

by Maggie O’Sullivan.

Is it a coincidence that my two favourite recent collections are about lapwings? I assume not entirely, though this was written 2005-2013.

A perplexing book, with moments of beauty, which are not limited to the sense of the lapwings escaping her language. I like e.g. in the poem ‘continuance’ (which is in pink there)

‘saying it over’ – ‘you make me say it over’

which I like as a fabricated reflexivity on her apparent need for musical closure in the first – title – poem in the collection; Billy Mills refers to how “visual and audio aspects of the work exist in parallel, separate but complementary”.

The visible sound of the poem is complete – closed – to itself.

The poems seem strikingly varied, despite how, for me, every line or group of line would be semantically consistent in any poem. And this despite the strength of the line, which really works for me as energetically dissolved content, evidenced by both the supple etymology and the defamiliarization of words by the fragmentary – highly visual – shape of the poems.

Just how good the collection is may depend on the lurking figure of Charles Bernstein (whose ‘Asylum’ is referred to in the notes). I would say she sufficiently repeats an enactment of his performance, especially in relation to the ‘shamanic’ (which comes up in contemporary discussion of innovative poetry) and his promotion of Hannah Weiner’s poetry.

It’s difficult to piece together, but that is certainly not necessary to enjoy its aesthetic (and incidentally it is a large – a4 – colourful hardback, by if p then q)