Lisa Robertson
The Weather
Vancouver: New Star Press, 2001

The Weather is a logical extension of Lisa Robertson’s unique Pastoral of poetic bodies. Aesthetically similar to Debbie and Xeclogue in its ecstatic insistence on flowers and "larking", the muse treads easily here. Robertson speaks in endless confident declaratives—"Noon was fabulous / I eat a date." The book is divided up into prose poems named after the days of the week. Sometimes highly claustrophobic, the doors on the season are closing with each day/poem, and if we get caught looking, the scenes loop, we wonder are we Spring or Thursday—"May began with summer showers". The days might be a diaristic day or an attempt at the essence of Wednesday. Weathers are constantly qualified and seasons renamed—"When summer, like rank vegetation running". Flagged by shepherdesses written in justified prose, undone by some barometric quality, no paragraph breaks, Robertson can’t help but cry lyric Uncle (like she’s not the one doing the ravishing). Between the days there are little verses, which is where she gets real—"[s]ay if you thought love was ironical". It’s future-past, it’s mock-(serious)-pastoral, and while we may be used to poets who like a fusion of the mandarin and demotic, for Robertson there’s genuine uneasy balance between the two. "Give me hackneyed words because they are good" will be a popular quote from this book I suspect (from the poem "Residence at C_"), but she’ll use a word like "umpteenth". The book thrills from the tension between the justified prose of the diaristic "day" poems and the small verse pieces that separate them. Whereas the verse says, "It translates Lucretius", the prose insists "It translates Lucretius with a high rate of material loss"—but they’re not arguing, they’re both right. The section at the end, a handful of poems called "Porchverse" steps out of that declarative insistence that characterizes most of The Weather, and seems to be guiding rather than guided. Porchverse is easy breezy beautiful. We’re finally in the eye, unweathered: "Read my heart: I enjoy / As I renounce the chic glint / which politics give to style. / From sociology and all / that scorches, I take my leave / now to my theme. "

---Tanya Brolaski