Forecast by Clara Blackwood
Guernica Editions, Spring 2014
$20.00 Canada, $20.00 US
Poems that Offer a Mythic Feast: A Review of Clara Blackwood's, 'Forecast'
by Brenda Clews
Clara Blackwood’s, Forecast
, focuses on hidden, delitescent experience. The collection is like a tarot reading. The poems never fully reveal themselves. Across the five sections of the book, including one on the cards of the Major Arcana, we find references to what is dealt, the forces compelling the life of the poet. The poems seep with intuitions of a deeper reality underlying the normative one where “the ravine teems with life: /crows chase hawks, foxes hunt hares” and, more importantly, that “Each blade of grass /aware of itself. //The animal spirits from long ago /made an agreement. /The human imprint /has yet to unseat it.” (Local Pantheon, 27)
The poems in Forecast
are from the perspective of the medium rather than the prophet, a Delphic oracle rather than a mystic eulogizing on divine experience. Being adept means perceiving that the order of things is dependent on what underlies the known, that the construction of reality is stranger than the normally perceived one. The way things are is arbitrary and could change at any moment. Forecast
opens with the lines, “I believe a strange force field surrounds /the high rise I live in.” What turns the image of an impenetrable, invisible balustrade upside down is the next stanza: “It’s not a force field that protects, /but revs things up, frenetic.” (The White Tower, 13) In ‘Glasgow —> Iceland —> Toronto’:
I glance at the woman beside me
reading the paper:
Ash cloud chaos hits UK.
She doesn’t look nervous
or alarmed that disorder’s taken reign. (54)
In the poem from which the title of the collection is drawn, ‘Forecast’ (24), we find all these elements: an unpredictability of the weather, both inner and outer, a Surreality in images of falling ‘shellfish,’ ‘pink hailstones,’ ‘birds migrating in reverse.’ The worldly ego cannot order this reality. The poem is an incantation, a spell that holds ‘the torch to illuminate the darkness’:
The weather ahead is unpredictable.
Shellfish could fall from the skies,
summer and winter
You may find love,
or spite. Always ambivalence.
There are wind patterns you don’t understand,
pink hailstones and midnight at noon.
Total solar eclipse,
birds migrating in reverse.
You believe there is a way
to distil chaos; that you could recover
a torch to illuminate the darkness,
pinpoint a light source
brighter than Andromeda.
If you just knew how to begin.
The underworld of the unconscious is a strange and sometimes dangerous world with treasures for anyone willing to explore the depths. The journey and persona of the poems in Forecast
reminded me of Demeter searching for herself in the underworld. And, in fact, Blackwood says in an interview with George Fetherling in Poetry Primer #7
: “I liken my enmeshment with poetry to the Persephone archetype. She was a naive maiden like myself until Hades (the dark muse) chose her against her will and took her to the underworld. The underworld here being the unconscious where poetic inspiration is drawn.”Forecast
is an illuminated feast where mythic worlds reign and their intersections with the concrete world of not just objects but social organization can be intuited through strange co-incidences and through being open to the forces, and to understanding their power. Reading signs in the personal tableau of memory, experience, thought, world-view, perspective is beholding our own painting as it is being painted. Blackwood writes, “What binds me together are ciphers, /scratched in the fabric /of now.” (Two Kinds of Blue, 36)