Monday, April 18, 2011

Small Mechanics by Lorna Crozier

Small Mechanics is the sixteenth collection of poetry by Canadian author Lorna Crozier. Although I wasn't familiar with Crozier previous to picking up the book, as soon as I began reading the collection I knew I was going to love it. What is so refreshing about the poetry is Crozier's simplicity, some of the best lines are so straightforward and yet raw and piercing. The poem "Giving Up" ends with the stanza:
"No one will go mad tonight.
No one will ride a silver slip across the waters,
and no one, no one, no one will fall
in love." 
While "Night Walk" ends with:
"Once, twice, a truck goes past.
I raise my hand to wave but I can't see
if anyone is waving back."
The simplicity of the lines grips the reader into a world of emptiness and loneliness, the lines are quiet but with an echo that resonates, and the division between them break them up perfectly creating moments such as "and no one, no one, no one will fall" and "I raise my hand to wave but I can't see" that tell stories by themselves. Of course, that isn't to say that Crozier can't play with language either, because there are plenty of vivid poems in she seems to have selected specifically words whose sound compliments her imagery, using words like scab and crusty in the poem "Lichen".

The moments Crozier celebrates are ordinary but she views them from a different and beautiful perspective, turning an annoyance into poetry with "Finding Four Ways to Celebrate the Huge Moths That Keep Me Awake Banging Between the Blind and Window and Falling On My Pillow" which uses the wing imagery to tell four small stories. The image of the moth appears in many of the poems including "A Cow's Eye" and "Obsession", representing something that is both ugly and extraordinary. Wings in particular play an important role in the collection, not only the wings of moths but also birds and even dragonflies, things that beat and fly away. There are also several references to the song of a bird in "If Bach Was A Bird" Crozier writes "the bird sings not because / it has an answer / but because it has a song" while "Holy One" ends with the stanza:
"A chickadee lighting on your palm:
hard to believe that a soul weighs less than that
and does not sing."
A bird's song is both simple and magical, a beautiful mystery, one of the small, unexpected moments that Small Mechanics uncovers. Another major theme to many of the poems in the collection is mourning, grief at the loss of parents, in particular a mother as well as time leading up to her death. In "Angel of Grief", Crozier delves into the mystery that our parents always maintain and the rituals that follow their deaths:
"And there's something
sacred about this place and what I'm doing,
empty my mother's dresser,
the only thing she claimed as hers alone,
the house too small, too poor to keep a secret."
The narrator is visited by the Angel of Grief but says:
"-enough of him. Here, he's less
important than my mother, her last things;
they slip through my fingers into the garbage sack
and leave their mark on me like scalding water." 
Crozier also mourns her father, who according to poems such as "Getting Used To It" and "Grief Resume" passed away sixteen years before her mother. In "My Father, Face To Face" she reflects on what it would be like to see him again, in the other world, and the insecurities and regrets she has about their relationship, "I wish / I'd known then that his drinking / was a sickness not a sin" she writes while in "The Dead Twin 2" she lists her sins including the fact that she has "mourned a cat more than my father". The poem "Grief Resume" is a collection of losses, from animals to parents to friends, "Too many friends. / Once I could count them / on one hand." The quiet nature of grief is epitomized by in the poem "The Day My Friend is Dying", where Crozier writes, "What is silent is more silent."

Many of the poems in Small Mechanics have an air of nostalgic to them, not just for those who have passed away but also for what life was like when they were alive, for the person you are when you have your parents and are a child, the vast potential that the world offers. In "What Holds You" Crozier reflects that
"The sky's
the only childhood thing
that isn't smaller
than you remember it."
while one of the very first poems in the collection, "The First Day of the Year", begins with the potential of a newborn writer, one who is "dreaming ink / though she hasn't seen it / in this world yet." 

The second half of Small Mechanics is compiled under the tile "Our Good and Common Bones" and then divided into poems within it, all filled with rich imagery. In the title poem "Small Mechanics" Crozier writes "your old bones / need dress rehearsals for the fleshless times." and ends with the stanza:
"I want a poet who goes outside,
who knows the small mechanics
of the clothespin and the muddy boot."
Crozier is exactly that kind of poet, the one who in "The Grasshopper's Task" finds the beauty in something as ordinary as a potato, writing that:
"Potatoes: more like us than any other vegetable.
In the root cellar their long pale arms
reach for one another in the dark."
Many of the poems in "Our Good and Common Bones" revolves around various animals, rats, horses, birds, cows, cats, grasshoppers, foxes- each of these is viewed in a unique and interesting way and the poems feel like a distinct look at them, a look goes beyond the feathers or fur and examines what makes up their soul. One poem, "A New Religion", even goes so far as to describe a religion which centres around the cat, although it was one of the cases where the concept didn't quite work for me. As a whole however, "Our Good and Common Bones" is a perfect title for a collection of poems which looks at animals in such a way that they could be human. The section also includes several unconventional love poems, ones that address the changes that happen as you age, not just to the body but also to the kind of love you have in poems such as "My Last Erotic Poem" and "Taking the Measure".

Ultimately, Small Mechanics is epitomized by Crozier's ability to capture rich details. It is a collection about time and animals, about mourning and remembering. In each poem Crozier examines the small mechanics of a moment and with her observant eye what she finds beneath the skin throughout Small Mechanics is described with incredible beauty and skill.

Release Date: March 29th, 2011
Pages: 120
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book


  1. After reading all the reviews I definitely think this one would be my favourite. It sounds absolutely beautiful and I love the cover.

  2. Gah, I -love- this: ""The sky's
    the only childhood thing
    that isn't smaller
    than you remember it."

    Nostalgia also gets me every time. Lorna Crozier sounds fantastic; thank you for the introduction.


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