Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry

11 July 2012

Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry
by Lorri Neilsen Glenn
Published by Hagios Press
Review by Kris Brandhagen
$18.95 CAD 978-1-926710-11-2

Lorri Neilsen Glenn’s Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry, is simmered to perfection; reading it wasn’t enough, I wanted to chew it, comprised as it is mostly of tender, slow-cooked self-reflexive prose, seasoned with poetry as earthy and rich as rosemary. A morsel of this work spends a moment in the mouth, red wine reduction keeps one licking the lips, and wanting another bite.

This book presents to me, again, that we, in the prairies are our own flavour of people. Though our seat may seem insignificant, we are not; our lives are just as heated as those anywhere else. And we have visceral challenges. And we feel deeply. Neilsen Glenn’s writing, originally from the prairies, is browned by world experience and a fork-tender perspective.

“A decade flies by. Children on bicycles… Jeffrey has kicked the dog and she isn’t moving… Allan collapses from a stroke in front of the stove, mumbling incoherently; paramedics and a babysitter are in the driveway. The next semester, and the next and next and next. Screams in the emergency room as the doctor resets one child’s bone… a plate of spaghetti, endless plates of spaghetti, a rabies shot or two, two kittens, then five kittens, a faculty meeting, then another… the boy’s drug habit, school meetings, specialists, theft, a house fire, a renovation… a parent’s death, a parent in detox, three sad homecomings, a tongue-lashing from a bitter mother-in-law, a boy sent out of the home… dinners, dinners, bottles of beer, school meetings and houseguests, bottles of wine and houseguests. Gifts of time, life, promise. Loss of time, life, promise. Try to write it. Try to write?”

The excerpt quoted above is a piece of poetry that chills me. Many people will have a casual glance into this book, and find that they don’t see much poetry, because they are looking for verse. From back to front, this book is intensely poetic, loosely arranged around the bones of community, and is about topics such as creativity, reading in itself, very complex meditations on war and peace, foreign countries and cultures, the conundrum particular to Canadians of religion and not having religion, of love, love’s first experiences, and of death, of what we all are reluctant to face when it comes to death, and suicide in particular.

This book starts out as something of a suspenseful mystery. Initially I was turning the pages, anticipating the next bit of tasty information about this death, that after twenty-five years Neilsen Glenn is now writing about, and becoming more vulnerable with each page turned. Then I was inside her head, and I couldn’t stop reading. And there are so many delicious quotes that I can’t list here, for content, or for space. In summation, Neilsen Glenn is nothing short of a masterful writer.

About two thirds of the way through the book, Neilsen Glenn describes that the title “Threading Light” refers to a painting by Mark Tobey, who “believed that the search, not the outcome, was the only valid expression of the spirit.” And so it follows that Neilsen Glenn would form her “search” as a grouping of “explorations,” which, I glean, is an attempt to try to strip away the dry associations of the word “essay.” Inside “Threading Light” there are such intricate expansions of what it is to be a poet, yet it is not necessarily for an audience of poetry enthusiasts; the words are directed more to those who are interested in personhood. I recommend the experience of this sprawling and nourishing book.


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