The poems in The Properties record encounters between desire and the repressed or suppressed interstices of social, economic, political and unconscious forces. They’re alert to correspondences, attentive to the lines of force to which the poet’s family quietly assented in the contested place that is the Northwest Coast of North America.
All times and places exist simultaneously. The texts in The Properties range from a twenty-first-century visitation by Herman Melville at a diner in New York City to an unknown history of the Lions Gate Bridge that begins in the Coast Salish village of Xwemelch’stn and ends with an assassination in Egypt. Igor Stravinsky, Sigmund Freud, Stefan Zweig, Duke Ellington, Jeanne d’Arc, Walter Guinness, George Bowering, André Breton (who sought out “the interior voice within each human being”), and more appear.
Several texts continue the exploration of the documentary form begun in The Shovel. These plaited histories begin as improvisations and gleanings. The title piece, “The Properties,” is a companion to the music drama The Kingfisher. A poem in honor of Browne’s mother breaks a silence. A piece about his great-aunt becomes a poem about Richard Strauss. Included are the words sung for a screening of Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, for which contemporary Vancouver-based composer Stefan Smulovitz wrote a luminous score. A manifesto celebrates the stick. There are works that return to sound poetry and repetition. Throughout, short lyrical fragments juxtapose longer texts in anticipation of a kind of capillary action.
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