it’s all there is
it’s expanding, day by day,
it’s beyond what it was
it’s difficult, you see, to predict
it has no centre, yet
it smarts, albeit
it is what it is
it gathers itself together
it’s implacable and reserved
it’s a shapeless eagerness
it’s moderate to rough
it’s poor becoming good
it generally mimics and resists…
Some poems resist working. They fight inquisitiveness into any of the secrets of their composition and critical decomposition.
Contrary to what it may tell you, Sonnet #1 is not a sonnet. It doesn’t follow any sonnet scheme. It could, tangentially, be said to follow a sonnet’s argumentative pattern (thesis, antithesis) but this is a stretch. Also, this isn’t new. Poets have been calling the strangest things sonnets since the time when it was the dominant poetic form. It isn’t new, but I think it helps this poem make meaning.
Sonnet #1 is, in essence, about gardening and about writing. In its most cultivated form, gardening is like a sonnet: based on tradition, entrenched in form and rules, rhyming of colour and species, a symbol of civility. Kroetsch says as much with that first line and its colon pointing to the blank white of page stock: my garden is the page and this is my garden/sonnet….
This is the first poem in Fred Wah’s 1982 Governor General award winning book _Waiting for Saskatchewan_.
What surprises me about the first line of the poem, and about the title of the book, is the primary importance given to the gerund: waiting. It’s the only gerund in the whole poem. The gerund builds permanent expectation never fully achieved in the nasal glottal stop of the higher sinuses. A small grammatical element in a poem that writes grammar and identity together. But _who_ is waiting?
Nouns build nouns: “grandparents countries places converged / Europe Asia railroads carpenters nailed grain elevators / Swift Current my grandmother in our house.”
One of the more impressive buildings in most prairie towns is the Land Registry Office which store deeds and land surveys. In the land registry office in Ottawa, where I live, the architect has worked unhewn granite boulders into the building’s smooth concrete surface. I can’t think of a better image of land meeting real property law.