cover image Void and Compensation

Void and Compensation

Michael Morse. Canarium (SPD, dist.), $14 (108p) ISBN 978-0-9849471-7-1

Morse constructs his thoughtful debut collection around the idea of emptiness, leading much of his language to reside in the abstract and amorphous. "We hitch a memory of order to ourselves," he writes, linking the abstraction of memory to the more physically-grounded, if still somewhat abstract, concept of the self. In this regard, Morse's language is precise, articulate, and inquisitive. But this linguistic exactitude on both micro- and macro-levels can lead to the work becoming overly analytical in places; the voice detached and feeling far-removed from its materiel. This is, of course, his "void," though readers may yearn for more "compensation," in the form of greater intimacy, to counterbalance this effect. The moments when Morse bridges stark observation with innermost reflection are when his poetry dazzles, as when he writes "Years go by without your mother's voice, without her/ on the other end of a voice.// Perpetual Yom Kippur. You don't practice. You fast." These few simple lines are sparse but evocative, drawing readers into both the effect of losing a parent and a complex relationship with religious tradition. Nevertheless, Morse's poetry is imbued urgency and gravitas. (Apr.)