The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out: Poems
Brisk, synoptic reviews can articulate only in part what makes Canadian poet Karen Solie’s latest poetry collection, The Road In Is Not The Same Road Out, a triumph of contemporary poetics. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise. The Road is preoccupied with a poetics of place—not places dreamed in poetic reverie but in real towns with real names. These spaces are traversed by various narrators who seem limited, denied all but imperfect views. Sometimes that imperfection can be as simple as the limits imposed by travel, heedless progress of plane, train or car. In “The National Gallery,” the narrator can only describe Ontario’s Silent Lake, with grid art’s impossible regularity. Yet, superficial stability is just that, mere surface. The true landscapes populating The Road are unstable, filled with fractures. If they were palimpsests that maintained, at some level, a memory of their past, it would be less disturbing. Instead, that past is erased too perfectly. The dignified country manse is ruthlessly shorn of dignity, razed and reborn as Walmart. The link to the past resides in the recollections of Solie’s speakers, in memory, flawed and mortal. Yet, this double vision of place—at once there and not— corresponds to narrators’ attempts, throughout the sequence, to return to childhood as, in one agonizing moment, a speaker asks of the past, “Can a thing made once not be made again?” And in that pause between an agonized interrogative and the answer that never comes, we are all left with uncertainty, made to inhabit the pause, made to wonder why the road we once took is impassable.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux