the blue, blue there (Apt. 9 Press, 2015)
The title of Marilyn Irwin’s latest chapbook calls to mind a horizon line. We aren’t near enough to see it yet, and maybe that’s the allure: we know that it isn’t here. Many poems in the blue, blue there play with proximities, whether they’re measuring small units like “the 14 gasps up Gladstone” (“creature, comforts”), impassible miles from one’s love (“went”) or even the thoughtful steps to befriending a turtle (“for when you make friends with a turtle”).
Spats of humour and sentiment sit comfortably together, with precise diction taking the occasional leap. Whether her knots of relationships are fastened or slipping loose, Irwin expresses their raw state, adding dashes of surrounding (household or Ottawa-bound) imagery to invigorate a poem’s breathing space. If the first stanza of “tail-spin” makes for clear, confessional poetry (with “i always knew you were wrong / for me”, the second cuts into a collage of visuals branching from that root of separation. By the third and final stanza (“the back of your head / frozen / to the Ottawa river”), Irwin’s resoluteness, while still unwavering, creates friction with the reader’s growing intrigue. Is this a relationship or a life she’s mourning?
That imaginary horizon also casts a hazy lens over what’s concrete and what’s abstract. Grounded and gut-punching poems like “murder, old ottawa south” and the stratosphere-ricocheting “transmigration of the soul and other no-no’s” stake opposite ends of Irwin’s yardstick, respectively. But the vast middle tackles the likes of Kim Jong Un, a dead deer in the woods and the FLNJ (le Front pour le Liberation des Nains de Jardin) with a flexible curiosity that accepts the chaos of life, and demands revisiting.