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Stone Boat

james hörner

it's not often that I find myself wanting to recommend a long poem about the prairies to people, and I'm glad Kristen Wittman has provided the opportunity with her sinister Stone Boat.

Stone Boat book cover

Two main sources of images jump out of this text: death and the prairie living. Wittman reminds us, "you must understand / death is in every picture". Just as it's not often that I'm stunned by long poems, it's rare that I'm as shocked and disturbed by poetry as I was by this passage:

the young vet who comes the rounds these days
studied at the university
but when the old mare
split her neck on the edge of the trailer
his eyes got big like headlights
when i shoved
my fist into the wound
and grabbed hold of the torn jugular
holding tight to ebb the flow
felt the hot blood pulsing
down my arms

while the mare's eyes screamed
he could only gag and puke
hands and knees in the blood and mud

Our narrator Franklin comments on the prairies that:

you might think
life is static

but i have lived through a war
watched Father
drown in a ocean of dust
topsoil swirling from the ground

the prairie is not static

i float a raft of wishes
on a sea of wheat
the size of my palm

The predominant use of small-case letters and minimal use of punctuation allow the letters to flow like prairie fields. As well, the complete lack of periods throughout gives the text an ungrounded feeling, suggesting timelessness. It's as though the sections of verse are interchangeable and reality is disintegrating.

I could go on quoting Stone Boat, but would rather you went out and enjoyed it for yourself. This was a one-sitting compulsion read, entirely immersive, and vividly memorable.

published by turnstone press
ISBN 0-888-01-296-9

james hörner edits canadian content.

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