In this companion to Governor General’s Award finalists Discovery Passages and Prairie Harbour, Garry Thomas Morse resumes his expansionist mapping of lyrical consciousness onto geographical concerns, acknowledging the unsettled edges of an imaginary territory. In Safety Sand, the reader is invited to step through a multilayered literary filter of uncanny allusions and cavalier translations to explore a nomadic Manitoba of the mind. Prairie surrealism is born!
In “Funereal Cocoons,” transformations of poems by Charles Baudelaire form a bridge between macabre visions of Paris during the 1850s and contemporary urban horrors that occur within the shadows of butterflies.
“Orphée through Glass” is a mystical triangulation involving Jack Spicer, Jean Cocteau, and Philip Glass, whose combined obsession with the Orpheus myth guides the reader through the arcane underworld of these poems. Explanatory notes are provided as imperfect mirrors of the poetic universe.
Rapid-fire poems in “Safe Spaces” are attentive to a structured musicality in our online interactions, tracing nano-aggressive threads of our language that cast judgment upon personal panopticons and fully realize Orwellian “hates” in wild emotional cycles that continually seek nourishment from repetitive media feeds. Trigger warnings not included.
“Ideas of North” extracts surrealist poems from the rocky landscape of the Boreal Shield, simultaneously re-enacting the mythic history of Flin Flon, Manitoba, and paying tribute to abstractionist Frank Stella and Canadian heldentenor Jon Vickers.
“Bones of the Last Bison,” the centrepiece of this collection, is an erasure exhibit that strips away the layers of Charles Mair’s celebrated poem “The Last Bison,” providing fractured commentary on Mair’s efforts to stir up hostility against Louis Riel and the provisional government in 1870, and also his early “environmentalist” work about the decline of the buffalo on the prairie, at once concealing and revealing what this has meant in practical and spiritual terms for Indigenous peoples.