Discipline of Undressing
Review by Patrick M. Pilarski (first published in Other Voices)
"For the wild and gentle dreamers." This dedication opens
K. Louise Vincent's powerful and well-crafted new collection of poetry
The Discipline of Undressing. Through a series of emotionally charged
moments, Vincent does in fact compel us to linger, listen, and dream.
While this is reason enough to read her work, one of the defining
features of this collection-and the thing that sets it apart from
other books of its kind-is Vincent's skillful use of stillness and
Silence as a connection between two people.
Grief also plays a role in a number of these poems, notably in the book's final section "The Henry Poems." When it arrives, grief is wrapped in a kind of calm acceptance and tranquility, as in this passage from "Open Sky":
However, Vincent also presents the harsher side of grief, showing in "Notes From Blue Heron Place" that: "When the heart breaks / there is sanity in something / splintering." Even her more visceral images do not come across as raucous-they simply exist within the stillness, making them all the more profound. This is possibly best represented in "Prayer for Pisces," where the calm of morning softens the potentially shocking image of two children intimately curled together on the narrator's porch.
Silence as a connection between a person and nature.
A valuable aspect of The Discipline of Undressing is the way it connects the inner world of the poet with the outer, natural, world-they are in inexorably linked throughout the book. The vivid natural scenes in Vincent's poems move beyond the purely descriptive and into a place where the natural and human aspects act as mirrors, reflecting each other and presenting new insights into both. We see this in her poem "Swallows":
Perhaps this is natural for Vincent: she notes that she is " born in Manitoba where the precambrian shield meets the prairie"; juxtaposition may be in her blood, and it is apparent in her poetry. She presents a natural world made vibrant and charged with emotion. Coupled with her precise use of colour (for example "Meantime" and "Sutra on Yellow"), this makes for a collection of work that invites the reader, as in "Small Planets," to watch and listen to world outside their skin:
Silence as a connection between a person and their own nature.
The attention to detail and chest-tightening content make this section perhaps the most powerful and engaging set of poetry in the entire collection. As made overt in the poem "Night Vision," The Discipline of Undressing is more than just an undressing. It is an "unskinning," with the end result being a methodical and beautiful exposure of the human heart and the soft silence that holds it in place:
It is fitting, then, that the books ends with a "positive emptiness." Through a series of pure and authentic moments, K. Louise Vincent brings us a memorable and undeniably engaging collection of poetry.
Patrick M. Pilarski is the co-editor of DailyHaiku, an international print and online journal of contemporary English language haiku. His recent poetry credits include PRISM International, Other Voices, Frogpond (USA), Simply Haiku (USA), and broadcast on CBC Radio One. Patrick recently released his latest chapbook of haiku and haibun, Five Weeks.