I have a bone to pick which is in keeping with the themes explored in Ceremonies for the Dead. Just what is the book designer trying to convey? The leading goes all wonky towards the end of a number of the poems in the collection: one is not sure if the last line belongs off by itself or it is part of the previous stanza, it hovers. The effect could be interesting in light of the “bottom” theme of the poems, the disposition of the lines with varying widths of leading could be a visual reminder of sedimentation: all those bands of ooze and muck laid down in layers of various tones.
Design matters for this poetry where the solvents of storytelling are in the service of reanimation. We are exploring liminal zones, places caught between sorrow and anger, sobbing and rage, and we are taught to navigate via ceremony which begins as the reader learns via attuned breath.
[…] to the long center
of the lake, the coldest point where only
deep breaths carry any chance
of touching bottom
In the same poem, one finds a subtle line: “only my breath has any answers” where the echo is present of “many” answers.
Heedless of questions the reader grows accustomed to lungs that can function in the murk of beaver ponds and other depths. The poet guides by imperatives interspersed with description. The poet exercises his teaching voice to convey ancestor visions and urge a visit the “Land of the Dead”.
if you want to know where to look
for them, hoping to catch them by surprise
as they boil river water for their morning tea,
There they are already in the poem. Compressed in the image. See them haul the water, heat it, pour it, let the tea steep, pour and then drink a cup.
as they boil river water for their morning tea
Of course, Giles Benaway in Ceremonies for the Dead would plunge us into the deep long centre but there is nothing necrotic in these necropoems; the bones have been picked clean, hollowed to whistle with: animated by every release of breath — they there infusing we here.
And so for day 1021