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|Gravity's Plumb Line|
2005 / Poetry / $18.95
9781554470020 / Trade paper / 96 pp
Gravitys Plumb Line is Ross Leckies third collection of poetry. It begins on the Saint John River, then moves out into neighbouring fields, woods and landscapes beyond. These poems bring the lushness of natural abundance in contact with the process of comprehending its intricacies.
The collections opening series leaves from Little St. John Lake, travelling through Edmundston and Grand Falls, down through the heart of New Brunswick, into the Mactaquac Dam, through the city of Fredericton and out into the Atlantic at Saint John Harbour. With inventive language, interest and affection, Leckie marvels at the rivers shifting attitude through towns and cities, bridges, surrounding vegetation, cultural flavours, and the memories that surround his experience. In Grand Falls the poet imagines the towns dreamlife, while in Hartland he recalls an afternoon spent on the covered bridge in the company of his father, and in Mactaquac he considers the process of writing in the presence of the dam that churns river into electricity.
From the river Leckie moves outward, delighting in avian intellect, the shapes of trees, the density of ground. To each he brings sharp perceptions and an intriguing level of engagement with the process of conveying these perceptions. Readers are privy to missteps and moments of satisfaction as the poet hones his senses ever closer. In the forest Leckie draws out the elusive ice bird, as well as pine trees, sunlight, winter afternoons, iris and ladys slipper, among others. Indoors, his eye trains on imported oranges and the journey of water from source to thirst.
The title segment broadens into a distinctly musical cadence that hinges on wit, stimulating vocabulary, the occasional blues influence and solid rhythms. In That Dirt Road, Leckie replays the lilting repetition of childhood reluctance along a country road, while Woke up This Morning and Bending the Blue Notes draw from a more formal appreciation of the blues genre.
In the final group of poems, Leckie re-envisions tenets of classical theatre mimesis, hamartia, unity, character, spectacle, catharsis and six others. These concepts are transported out of doors and tested against woods, sky, garden, field, wind and pond. Seasons in the woods mimic the trials of human experience, and stars enact the downfall of a hero reaching beyond his means. In 12 brief poems Leckie locates the mainstays of human drama in the tumult of our environs a resounding conclusion in the poets stirring translations of life into art.
I think my poems capture the nimble movement of the perceptual act, says Leckie, but they are also meditations that transform the visible world into passionate thought. Seeing is believing. I work with lush metaphors to provoke associations that reverberate through what we know of self and other, of culture and politics. We can only know life by the way we walk through it, by the rhythms of our feet.
This 5 x 8-inch book is a smyth-sewn paperback bound in card stock with a letterpress-printed jacket. The text is printed offset on laid paper.
Leckie deftly balances lyricism and precision in these poems, many of which explore New Brunswicks sense of place. The poems in Gravitys Plumb Line are musical, not simply in sound, but in style. Formal and mannered, but never stilted, they sing with a creativity that is expertly controlled. Eric Marks, The New Brunswick Reader
In these verses, there is neither gradiosity nor a false reduction of human claims. Gravitys Plumb Line is the testimony of a larger heart, in several senses. There is magnanimity in the range and tact of language; compassion in the treatment of people, places and animals; subtle courage in the fidelity to tradition, subtle courage in the disavowal of easy scorn, of casual sadism, and of rote responses. The scrupulous grandeur of a curiosity that pauses repeatedly to humanize the nature of things suffuses almost every line of this pondered yet mercurial book. Eric Miller, Books in Canada