Saturday, July 02, 2011

Reader's Diary #727- Dionne Brand: Ossuaries

When my wife saw Ossuaries sitting on our night stand she remarked how cool the title was. I was more than a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't know what it meant, even though I was more than halfway through Dionne Brand's collection of poetry. Ossuaries, it seems, are depositories for bones of the dead.

And yes, I agree with my wife that Ossuaries makes for a cool title, very evocative especially for a book of poetry. But I'm not sure if it captures the feel of the book. Certainly the poem takes on themes of mortality and history, and ossuaries would encapsulate that, but from a more literal standpoint the poem seems to be about travel as a desperate need to connect, to find oneself, to understand something about life and humanity. Ossuaries seems like too stationary of a title to capture the movement and stretching of this long poem.

I quite enjoyed Brand's poetry, though at times I grew annoyed with all the repetition, which appeared sometimes to be forced merely to keep the rhythm going. Too many stanzas had lines like "I could not, I could not, I could not" or "the core of reflectively so vastly, vastly vast." The latter of these examples, it could be argued, had more than rhythm in mind. It mentions "reflectively" and the 2 "vastly"s in there hammered home the point, but too often I found myself trying to justify what appeared to me an overuse of repetition.

But otherwise I enjoyed the flow, the unexpected word choices, and themes. It had the potential of wallowing in existential psychobabble but it did not. Instead there's an earthiness beneath the soul searching that held it all together.


Anonymous said...

It is a cool title! I should have been able to guess what it means "os" in french meaning "bones".

Melwyk said...

I've meant to pick this up...still haven' much great Canadian writing on my tbr, though. One more reason I LOVE this challenge ;)

Wanda said...

I've read Brand's Thirsty and loved Earth Magic her volume of children's poetry. Not sure about her repitition of repitition in this one but I'd give it a go if I could find it at my library.