Monday, January 12, 2015
REVIEW: I WANT A POEM
In response to an online discussion around what poetry really is, Valerie Senyk began to reflect on what she wanted, or needed, poetry to be. Upon learning that this was the premise of i want a poem, I began thinking about my own relationship to poetry. This re-thinking is exactly what Senyk’s poems will evoke in readers. Her privileging of desire newly positions poetry in a way that helps us ask different questions of our art.
Drawing on poets like Rainer Maria Rilke to help frame self-reflection, Senyk’s response is laid out in this collection of poems that feel at once immediate and purposeful. In “memory poem,” she asks of a poem to help her remember. In “changing poem,” she wants a poem to radically change her life. I can’t help but think that articulating her reciprocal relationship with poetry is (importantly) radical.
What is interesting about Senyk’s work is that though some of it can be read literally, as a response to the guiding question of the book, many of the poems play with sound and image in unexpected and delightful ways. Each poem successfully complicates our understanding of poetry by making room for more ways to engage with and be affected by poems.
It is not often we approach poetry reflexively with the intention of centrally situating our desires within it, to call upon the ways our poetry is informed by those desires. What Senyk does by exploring her desire here is enter into a dialogue with form, and yet her poems speak to poetry as lived. She notes that her sons’ lives are poetry. Refreshingly, she asks of poems to bite, to blind, to purr, to sing, to expose.
Senyk brings to mind Audre Lorde’s assertion that all poetry is revelatory. We get the feeling that she is figuring it out, tackling the intersections of art and desire in real time, while her poems suggest there are infinite answers. With each passing poem, our reading becomes alive with the emergent quality of Senyk’s writing. We are in a joint process of discovery. By asking what she may want or need from poetry, Senyk moves in a direction that is necessary for us as readers and writers if we are to reconcile feeling and thought in art. i want a poem explores desire as it represents it. It never stops questioning even as it answers.
Fiorella Morzi is a writer, reader, and feminist from Toronto. Find her on Twitter here: @ellafior