from Tumultétudes: The Chips & Ties Study, Margaret Christakos
2012, BookThug, Toronto ON
$12, 978-1-927040-34-8, 40 pages
reviewed by rob mclennan
Finding out she. Registering it. what if and how. Is it
deathful? Who’s in charge? Who’s to blame.
One of those
doors. Is it
When your parent’s dying (maybe) it’s hard to remember your own
ties. (“3 Lineups”)
Margaret Christakos’ new chapbook, from Tumultétudes: The Chips & Ties Study (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2012), is an accumulative study of home and family, Northern Ontario, parents and corresponds with the author spending extended periods at the Christakos homestead. Her short texts dismantle her responses into a series of notes, breakdowns and studies, composing broken words and letters, composing broken lines, “the letters / that make / the difference” (np). Christakos collages rhythms, repetitions and songs, stitching variations, for example, on William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” in a Northern Ontario sequence. Sketching out property, family and death, she opens the collection with “Now that each person has / been fully // identified,” later, opening the poem “Jan 17 5:08pm,” subtitled “Sudbury – camp whiteout” with “To first fine and then / identify each relative // Is it history of interest to any // Will it accrue to you…as in,” and the poem “3 Lineups,” writing: “Did you see one of these / wandering lonely as a crowd / on the night you drove old Dixie down?” Christakos slips the blur between meaning and pure language, writing geographic wilderness and rail, memory and fencelines, in a collage that stretches out a portrait of what possibly might be home.
These read very much like sketches towards a longer, larger piece, perhaps excerpted for the sake of chapbook publication, or even a whole section of a manuscript-in-progress, her suggested Tumultétudes, Christakos’ lyric, musical study triggered by being upended. For Toronto writer Christakos, whose previous work has explored and deconstructed her more immediate spaces of marriage, home, the domestic and family, it’s interesting to watch her gaze shift back, to earlier points, connecting her Northern Ontario past and her parents, “Not drowning [ but / owning, up to history’s sequence / of plenty for some [.]” Phil Hall once suggested that once we enter our forties, our gaze turns back, and Christakos is a highly skilled writer, sketching out a wide canvas in short bursts that doesn’t need to show every connection for those same connections to absolutely hold.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2011, and his most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com