Thursday, May 17, 2007

Reader's Diary #266- Karl Sturmanis: Treeline Wedding (FINISHED)

This is an obscure one. From what I can find, this book, originally published by Orca Sound, is long out of print. Furthermore, I can't find any other poetry attributed to him. I can find a book called The Greenpeace Book attributed to Karl and Dona Sturmanis, but that's it.

It's too bad. I quite enjoyed his poems. In a way, they reminded me of Christopher Dewdney's Demon Pond. There is a connection to nature that pervades through the entire collection. But unlike Dewdney's book, which seemed to contemplate our place in the natural world, Sturmanis seems to have answered that question and moved on. He seems remarkably sure that we are (or should be) just a part of nature, no more, no less than say a tree, or a river.

This equivalency is accomplished primarily through surrealist imagery (geez, that's a mouthful isn't it?). He blurs the lines between the human body and the natural world, leaving the impression of a connection, a believable (if sometimes confusing) scenario in which we are in tune with the Earth. I'm not implying that there is no conflict of course, for as great as some biological utopia might be, that could be pretty boring at worst, smugly preachy at best.

The conflicts in Treeline Wedding are mostly intrapersonal ones. As lovely as it might first appear to be to be one with nature, this also means that humanity is dangerous, unpredictable and fragile. So put away your guitar, we're not ready to sing Kumbaya just yet.

There's also a sense of loneliness that seems to appear most often when the narrator seems to realize he has momentarily lost touch with the ecology, or else has wallowed too deeply in it. Striking the balance seems to have been a constant source of inspiration.

Themes aside, the poems themselves are sometimes a little too choppy. Lines are typically very short and I found myself questioning many of his line breaks. Except for the occasional prose poem, lines most often lasted only two or three words. I found it a little distracting and it was hard to maintain a developing thought this way. It would have been okay had it been used with a bit more moderation, had he mixed it up a little. Longer lines didn't always need to lead to a prose poem.

However, there were flashes of brilliance as well. I loved for instance, this stanza from "hitch-hiking stance #1":
the city feels fuzzy
sand whirl-winds
people pressing buttons,
pushing pedals,
revving their engines
in tight circles...
Here the word choice, the alliteration, the labial sounds, the choppy lines (which work in this context), and even the punctuation, perfectly capture the energy and tension in the city as well as his disillusionment with the modern, unnatural world.

It's because of lines such as these that I hope Sturmanis picks up the feather pen once more.

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