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Saint Erasure

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Poetry
  • by: Donna de la Perrière
  • Date Published: December 2010
  • ISBN-13: 1584980761
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 63pp
  • Price: $13.95
  • Review by: Kristin Abraham

Just one year after the publication of her first full-length book of poems (True Crime, Talisman House, 2009), Donna de la Perrière has presented us with another equally-stunning volume, precisely crafted and devastatingly haunting.

Saint Erasure is an exploration of female identity, with a series of poems that range from vivid and aching internal discourse to the ideas of antiquated “hysteria” and demonic possession, and their relationship to the present-day nomenclature: depression.

In these poems, “the body carrie[s] on for years” while the mind/soul becomes a separate entity, far removed from biological life. The speakers in these poems struggle to come to terms with self and its variations and responsibilities:

nine temperaments, nine flights, each a type of soul
not as pathology but as a part of the self
belief of being persecuted, possessed by a demon:
turbulent sleep, palpitations, a simple sadness of the heart
it came to this:
        one was Atlas, growing tired, fearing she’d drop the world
        one a fragile-shelled snail, intricate and unfurled
        the last a special secret brew, quiet, unending, to keep them
        from despair so they would not offend their god

It is nearly impossible for a reader to resist being swept away by the torment in their voices, to resist feeling the pain and confusion:

house swept and dusted. a creature even remotely like. wished to satiate
rather than have itself extinguished. (hardships of its own condition.)
everything is distance. an increased susceptibility. as if an oversight. An
awful roar. the bearer and the fellow bearer. the efforts of one so soon
awake. with sleepiness is soon asleep. an abstract heaven over a naked
rock.

It isn’t simply word choice that makes these poems so electric. De la Perrière is a master of breath and line; she uses limited (yet highly precise) punctuation and often creates caesura with space within her lines (a lá Gary Snyder):

getting a coffee perhaps    running errands     anyhow you
are in line for something    you are doing fine    you are
standing in line    people talking around you     and you
ignore this other    thing because it will go away     you think
it will probably go away you will concentrate think
clearly    but still this other thing is happening also

Without punctuation, the language is allowed to accelerate and take on the slightly frantic, slightly paranoid internal dialog of depression; the caesuras and enjambment denote only a brief hesitation, a pause much quicker than any punctuation would permit. These pauses are timed precisely with the natural breaks in language: we hear an intake of breath in these gaps, a quick gasp, a quick heartbeat:

in the real body there is always
the sound of the ocean
a frantic
tapping a dull
hum a high rushing
of air in the real body
cars flash by the end
of a tunnel in the real
body things are caged
and trampled

These poems are written to be heard. Read them aloud when you read this book; they have the ability to enter on the breath and to possess a reader, just as the speakers in the poems are possessed by their trauma.

Saint Erasure is a mystifying collection of poems, one to turn to often, one to carry with you everywhere. Talisman House should feel privileged to have produced not one, but two of de la Perrière’s manuscripts.

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Review Posted on March 03, 2011 Last modified on July 10, 2014
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