Erin Knight. Chaser (Anansi 2012).
A little late with this one, having heard Knight read from it last year but then it ended up in a pile.
Reading through Chaser, one quickly realizes that it’s a very clean, observant, distanced, & objective sort of writing, apparently. Also, as the Notes indicate, a ‘number of these poems are built around lines drawn from source texts’ on such matters as the consumptive (ie, tuberculosis) expanded metaphorically into the whole economics of illness & consumption, or the concept of consumption economics (capitalism) as illness.
Although each poem can stand alone, Knight has shaped her book into a collation of 3 intertwining implied narratives: the consumptive, I——-, who ‘is not always at peace / with himself,’ travels, a tourist of cures; the scientist travels too, seeking answers, finding more questions; & the economist appears to be on the run from ruin, always tracking him, waiting to strike like a virus, consuming the consumer. Proceeding through Chaser, a title with many possibilities, readers will find these figures, sometimes seen in 3rd person, sometimes (the scientist) speaking directly in first (yet so a-lyrically, it feels like a lab report), trying to make their way to knowledge, some kind of understanding. On the punning play of ‘consumption,’ these purloined poems turn, & turn about. They seem to affect a scientific distance, then suddenly drop into something other & troubling.
As an example, one shorter poem, ‘Autobiography is prized in heaven’ (& the titles are another delight of this book), sharp fragments cutting against each other (& the rest):
How lonesome it was
to catch this toad
The east wind set up pools
and ponds in my lungs
The leeches I raised
on my own
Like the bodies attempting to find a cure, escape sickness, buy their way out of society’s ills, these poems become ‘a recrudescence, a resistant strain.’ In Chaser, Knight has constructed a brilliant roller coaster of a book, rushing up & down but, like the fevers it explores, heading for a crash.