Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent

Liz Howard. McClelland & Stewart. (Penguin Random House, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (98p) ISBN 978-0-7710-3836-5
Howard's debut is a controlled, powerful frenzy of imagery and language. Almost deconstructivist in execution, the four sections of this poetry collection braid language—English, Anishinaabemowin, experimental, and recombinative—with false histories, assimilation, and colonialist and anti-colonialist narrative. The resulting exquisitely entangled forms perhaps reflect Howard's own mixed ancestry. Even the title, drawn from Howard's poem "Thinktent"—"inside my own head perpetually/ not simply Wittgenstein's girl/ but an infinite citizen in a shaking tent"—is layered commentary on micro and macro structure, internal and external narrative, and the dichotomy between experience and constructed narrative. The book's larger structure builds similarly. Through the four sections—"Hyperboreal," "Of Hereafter Song," "Skullambient," and another, different "Hyperboreal"—Howard's work is never content to stand still, and is constantly in conversation with itself as well as its subject matter. The collection is interweaving, recursive, exponential in measure, and extraordinary in its use of form. Howard creates a stunning (in every sense of the word), cohesive whole that demands rereading and reflection. If it is at times too internally conversant, eschewing full cogency, that is no failing but rather part of its commentary. That choice leaves the collection still markedly strong and deeply impressive. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 04/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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