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Tuesday January 21, 2014 in Books


By Natalie Simpson

“To get at turn away.” In Thrum, her second collection of poetry, Natalie Simpson reveals how making sense is not always the same as making meaning. Her supple and agile poems seduce the weary reader away from representation and toward sound, texture, and absence. Here, a sentence is no longer a sentence, but “a word in pieces, plastered, faster,” which “crumbles” on the page into strange and luminous syntactical patterns that create new and better pathways for meaning.

Roughly woven, rough to touch. Small words stealing fog. The rest are tongue flicks.      Home is how hard you eat your heart out.

Simpson writes in a tradition that begins with Gertrude Stein and includes many contemporary Canadian and American poets, such as Lisa Robertson, Harryette Mullen, Anne Carson, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Dennis Lee, Nicole Brossard, and Juliana Spahr. Like the authors and the work that has influenced it, Simpson’s free writing engages with language non-representationally and pays close attention to sound, rhythm, and energy within the sentence, often in dialogue with phrases from other poets. Not limited to the literary, Simpson also recontextualizes snippets of language from other discourses, such as news, advertising, and law.

Thrum records a poetics of process. Immersing herself in loosely strung lines and repeated phrases, Simpson’s speaker seeks refuge in disordered language, in the alternative logic of poetic devices. For Simpson, the act of writing and unwriting is a movement toward beauty and hope, an opening. Sound and rhythm. Syntax and punctuation. Tension in the sentence. Torque. Making strange, Simpson reveals, is making sense, and placing pressure on language through poetic devices uncovers its beautiful absurdities, its languid uncertainties.

ISBN 13: 9780889228504 | ISBN 10: 0889228507
6 W x 8.5 H inches | 128 pp pages
$16.95 CAN / $16.95 US
Rights: World
Backlist | Poetry | Bisac: POE011000
Paperback Edition


“a heady mix of the silly and profane … Simpson tends to coil out the languages of public communication, whether casual or legalistic, to examine their absurdities … or even their accidental grace.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“The intellectually playful tone of the collection will recommend it to anyone interested in language and its uses. … Thrum represents an important contribution to contemporary language poetry and is a must-read for those with an interest in Canadian examples of such work.”
Bull Calf

“Reader, writer, and language are elusive. … She intriguingly reconfigures parts of speech”
Canadian Literature

“In Thrum, Simpson deftly tugs at the ‘ragged edge of nuance,’ unravels language into a gorgeous heap. Though it is undone, it isn’t a mess: she finds the scraps that make elegant sense, holds all the slippery bits together with loose, precise stitches. Simpson shakes the word out until it thrums with energy, nearly spits static. The more time I spend with these poems, the more their rewards unfurl. A collection to keep close by, to remind that wonders are still being worked in the world.”
– Sachiko Murakami

“Natalie Simpson’s poetry arrives as a cacophonous roiling of sense, softly advocating we ‘Break out of our shall.’ In Thrum, she foregrounds the strangeness of the quotidian, mining headlines and contracts to reveal our grasping for mastery in language. She urges us to persevere against our self-imposed stricture, drawing words and phrases from the murk of their material and sounding them against each other until they shiver and crumble. Thrum introduces us to the stranger in ourselves.”
– Jason Christie

“The language of Thrum bears no burden of meaning. Its language is not about the word’s practical design, but its most subtle frequencies. It is seen and sounded. Simpson’s lines torque as she breaks down the borders between words. The reader participates in these unfamiliar lines, delights in the hum of
these fluent heaps of fragments. Thrum is the utterance whose combinations order the reader to, as Wittgenstein would say, ‘stare and gape.’ Thrum is a solution for the problem of poetry.”
– Paul Zits

About the Contributors

Natalie Simpson

Natalie Simpson’s poetry has appeared in several anthologies, including Post-Prairie (Talonbooks, 2005), Shift & Switch (Mercury Press, 2005), Shy (University of Alberta Press, 2013), and The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2013 (Tightrope). Her first book of poetry, accrete or crumble, was published by LINEbooks in 2006.

Thrum cover

Natalie Simpson

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