REVIEW: The Quiet

The Quiet
Anne-Marie Turza
Anansi (2014)
Read by Rachel Wyatt

In her debut collection of poetry, Anne-Marie Turza ranges in scope from the microscopic to the lengths of the CN tower that could span into the depths of Russia’s lake Baikal. Despite the collection’s title, she offers a clutter of ideas, images and connections that are anything but quiet.

Structurally, the collection is framed by three sections entitled “The Quiet”. These sections are made up of untitled poems that pay minute attention to the world. Several of these ask “And its sound?”; others describe the delicate anatomy of insects or even smaller, microscopic scaled creatures. The tone in these poems shifts from the found encyclopedic text in i:ii, describing the Thin-Legged Wolf Spider to the languorous metaphors of the tardigrade “lumber[ing] slowly … [m]outh circular and open, curiously like a Christmas orange” (i:v). Many poems in these sections ask questions without antecedents, each new poem obscuring the object of the questioning further, its sound “[a]s in the toothed whale” (i:i), pointed and “A nerve ran through it, like the long nerve in the eyetooth of a cat” (ii:ii), its “bright carapace” an “antennae of dissolving bone” (iii:vi).

The collection refuses to reveal its structural principles. Poems from “The Quiet” range from the focus and quiet of “A man is sewing button holes into the wings of moths” (i:vii), to the feverish pitch of ii:i where the speakers “lived in that quiet, above megrims in second story windows, painted our mouths with ketchup, our eyelids with sweet relish, wore singlets made from the dyed hair of miniature horses.”

The intervening sections have similar range, from the moment of suspended quiet that describes the light streaming through a window in “Levin Hunting”, to the carefully weighed, short lines describing the microflora of an eyelash in “Animalcules”, to the frenetic shifting focus of “Black Cap Winter” (which describes lobsters, sunken ships, earthworms lost in the progress of glaciers to coal dust), and then back to the rolling gait of “Dear God – And When I Say God, I Mean The God” that elegantly dances through a snail “shitting on its own head,” to the “god of the conditional,” the “thick-kneed god,” to the “god who wears shoes big, who shambles—“. Sentences with burgeoning commas trip up the pace, or verbs that can be tied to more than one noun add a timorous ambiguity:

Feelers in lengthy syncopation, eyes

Deep occupied manholes.
Here one can live at any dark system’s edge—

Underwater canyons, sewers, storms, stars—
Know little about, and die of it, being old.
” (Black Cap Winter)

Turza’s collection plucks several themes like the strings of a lute: themes of god or gods, dust and its quiet, insects and the character Levin from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, but refuses to resolve itself to any finite relationship between them, resting instead on their dissonance. Its poems hold up the beauty of the unbeautiful and imperfect, make the familiar unfamiliar, and shift through almost as many voices as there are poems.