Flourish, the fifth poetry collection from B.C. writer Jacqueline Turner, is a hefty collection which carries a large bandwidth of memory, intent and invention.
The collection is divided generously into four parts, the first of which acts as a survey of memory, an investigation by an expert, looking back and looking through. A live journal of present-day reflections, Turner’s lavish imagery of place, thought and people with their “crepe skin” is deft. These multi-layered approaches include a pop culture starting point, a personal setting, and a literary zeitgeist for good measure, to create a unique and reflective prose poem.
Turner’s transitions are as varied as Flourish is deep. Turner, who recently collaborated with filmmaker Brian Johnson, to produce a short called This Is A Text, is no stranger to collaborating and breaking down aesthetical borders. Turner’s own tantrums are as highbrow as those she sneaks backstage into her poems.
In the second section (“New Nostalgia”), Turner takes a page out of Leonard Cohen’s heavily reworked Death of a Lady’s Man as she writes, “The price of this book is high, too high to be useful, too high to be kind.” Here, like in Cohen’s 1978 collection, the poet describes her intent: “It was the book itself and it was trying to put into words how to flourish.” Turner’s work is reflective, but then moves into the fine dregs of her concoction.
In the book’s titular section, the reader finds the book resembling lyric poetry, as if all the work up to this point was for this pared down focus, removed of prose’s free-wielding ways. In a poem with a very long title (“‘Around the cave/a luscious forest flourished: alder, polar, and scented cypress. It was full of wings.’ – The Odyssey”), Turner masters the remix of memory, lyric and visceral imagery: “sometimes the ache in the chest was full / an emotion like homesickness or a worry.” And then, the lines that follow, “it was always, ‘the rain held off’ or / ‘the dress was gorgeous’ / always ‘all that work’ or ‘so simple and clever,’” act as endorsements or quotes attributed to the memory, locked in a well-worn poem, consumed by nostalgia, and the final statement on a weekend with friends “meant to be simple.”
In “Quietly,” Turner once again uses the “meant to be simple” refrain, now framing a father’s final moments with glimmers of recognition and warmth: “that moving my mom described him as actions-over-words, one rose / dried beautifully every year.”
Flourish is not a contradiction of form but an expansive collusion, a pact with time, the reader and art, well worth the detailed read, and reread.
Nathaniel G. Moore is the author of Goodbye Horses (Mansfield, 2018) and co-editor of Toronto Noir. He lives in Fredericton and is working on a new novel. He also dabbles in PR www.moorehype.com
ARC HITS THE HEART HARD.