The austere language of Minsk does not necessarily imply cool or aloof but rather a refined sensibility for the elementary, the unadorned - to see more in less, to perceive truth with clarity. While prior works have been clean, almost scientific, Minsk exudes the chill of winter, but is also a vehicle for fantasy, a dreamscape of an imagined land.
The poet's impressions inspire reflection, rooting around in memory, sparked by a phrase, an image; for, like art, poetry is visual. Greenlaw's deft touch challenges form, stating bluntly that this is poetry, these are words meant to be, in columns or sideways, pulled from the past or fresh as an hour ago. History and myth loom large, images of the past, when stories passed by word of mouth, in rhyme, in song. Both complex and stunning, Greenlaw's work steps dangerously far onto an ice-encrusted pond, daring it to hold:
"They fold their robes, test each rung,In a thoughtful forward, Edward Hirsh discusses the direction of Greenlaw's poetry, her fascination with issues of time and space, all humming with the electricity of her language, a deep current of morality. Hirsh declares Greenlaw a winter writer, her icy landscapes exploring questions of place.
half-enter a pool pinched in three feet of ice.
Each swims a neat circle, wearing slippers and gloves." (Steam)
All is examined, viewed through the bright promise of youth:
"Did we not remember the curse of this place?Easily intoxicated by the newness of the world, it is possible to embrace beginnings and ignore reality:
How Sundays drank our blood as we watched
dry paint or the dust on the television screen." (Zombies)
"How people died bursting out of a quiet life,
or from being written into a small world's stories." (Ibid.)
Minsk harkens the experience of untested territory, watching, measuring, feeling the cool fingers of winter, a creature walking the lands of myth:
"All the small bones of feet and hands.
What god is this we travel for hours,
getting no further than the tips of his fingers?" (Vaeroy)
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2005