August 1, 2016
By the end of the poem, ‘The Novel as Manuscript,’ from his poetry collection The Quotations of Bone, Norman Dubie elaborates his ars poetica. First, he describes how the whole Soviet system starts to vanish when “postage stamps/ like immense museum masterpieces” are discontinued. His allusions to that death-filled change are grounded in the life of Boris Pasternak and his character Yuri Zhivago: “…he was writing/ …at a cold desk/ poems against all experience/ and for love of a woman…” The next generation searches for their vanished mother among the bodies of Stalin’s victims; yet, they are ‘swallowed’ by the incredibly pure image of Zhivago and Lara “…in a frozen wilderness, the summer house…”
Dubie’s art of writing a new poem begins in this kind of reflection.
In another poem from that collection, ‘Lines for Little Mila,’ he tells a friend’s little girl “about some of this” – a shared deep history – “and she immediately slumbered, putting/ a blue ghost inside my chest.” Dubie is reaching in these poems for “the other side…of that river.”
In ‘Prologue Speaking in Tongues,’ it is “this darker incline/ of the Superstitions”; a place where “the world turns its circumference/ into pond water’s broken/ golden mean…” In ‘British Petroleum,’ “it’s the city, its night ark/ gone alphabet with quarks/ entering the impossibly strange intercessional dark.”
Later, in ‘The Mirror,’ he writes: “It is not belief but/ an attraction/ to an experience we hunger after…” Norman Dubie is willing to go into the fields of black potatoes where the bodies are buried and bring back poems of contemporary and historic truth sung in sharp new ways.