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Review: Seizing: Places, by Hélène Dorion

David Hart, Stride Magazine 2013

Arc gifts reviewers with extensive information: Hélène Dorion was born in 1958 in Quebec City, and now lives in Montreal. She studied philosophy at Laval University (Quebec) ,... and so on, into the translator's notes on his task. I have marked a quibble where he describes her mode of writing - of a nakedness and a compression, and so on and concludes with this, that the perceptions ... suddenly seague into something expansive and almost spiritual in its clarity. However intense and physical the experience, its vanishing point is always a spiritual one - the two are, in Dorion, part of a continuum, perhaps indeed translations of each other. What is this 'spiritual'?

The book is one book translated, in five sections, each with a 'Seizing' ('Ravir') title, Seizing Cities / Shadows / Mirrors / Windows / Faces. Each section divides into short poems divided by a . From Seizing : Mirrors:

Night - And the shadow discloses
the reflection, pure
mirror of the years drifting
behind your eyes - Why

so many skies
sloping down to your mouth?

And from Seizing : Windows,

Sixteen centimetres by sixteen
words of lead on soft paper
torn by lines of ochre
and blue. Signs, like steps
moving forward in a single journey.
The light scatters the stones
that time breaks in your hands.

Those last two lines in French,

La lumière disperse des pierres
que le temps casse dans tes mains.

Why the word 'spiritual' to describe where the poems conclude? Why attach 'almost'? Isn't this a confession of vagueness? It is likely a reading in French would float more - not to disparage the translations, which seem consistently to hold a moment well - but to wonder not least where the translator is locating 'spiritual' in the intention - or even consistently as a lucky break. What does it mean? Would the poet herself claim or even allow 'spiritual'? My feeling is, the poems are grounded, and because of this they hold on to truthfulness in the moment, are in the everyday real and do open the reader (this reader anyway) to an adventure well out of the ordinary, and it says a lot to me about these poems that I want to quote all of them, to say 'listen' to this and to this and this.