Colin Browne’s exciting new work Ground Water received a glowing review in The Georgia Straight (June 6-13, 2002 issue). In all map making, one begins with the representation of ‘ground’ and ‘water,’ and what grows or is constructed on these representations is rendered by a series of conventional symbols-the ‘elements of topography.’ This book of poems is an investigation of the elements of the spiritual topography of the 20th century, and a close examination of the conventional symbology passed on to the poet/map-maker by his ancestors-his father and mother, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles. It is a paralysing inheritance which is rendered here-an entire century, not begun with ‘the war to end all wars,’ but a century through which that great calamity of mechanized and mass-produced misunderstandings was perpetually reproduced.
These ancestors have abetted suffering they could never have imagined. Accessories to crimes against whole populations that made possible their pleasures and their grace, they’re humiliated and ashamed, mortified by themselves, by their indignity and complicity. Incapable of reversing the inhumanity of what they have created, they have left the traces of their deeds on the landscape, fragments of correspondence for their sons and daughters to decipher.
Within this wilderness of the 20th century, the green flame of life continually presents itself in these poems as an emergency-an emergence, a coming-out, a flower, a bloom of identity, shape and form, requiring immediate attention and action, asserting itself as mimesis, and constituting a disruption of the conventional representations of the symbolic.