Roo Borson’s “Intermittent Rain”


I finished reading 15 Canadian Poets X 3 today. I owe someone (either George or Zach?) from Bookninja a real thank you for referring me to it. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who has similar taste in poems as I've marked more poems to re-read in this volume than any volume I've read since I started using post-it flags to highlight pages.

At 611 pages, this collection should keep you occupied for awhile, even longer if, like me, you feel compelled to buy the collections of poets you found particularly appealing. It'll take awhile for me to read all the Canadian poets I've found here and liked well enough to buy. Of course, I have so little background in Canadian poetry that I have no idea how representative the poets in this collection are of Canadian poetry as a whole. Ron Sillman would probably place nearly all of the poets included in this volume in the School of Quietude, but, for better of worse, that is the school I am most attuned to.

It seemed to me that the last section of Geddes' collection was dominated by women poets. Perhaps I noticed that merely because my recent readings also seem to have been dominated by women poets. I'm not sure if that's because I've overlooked them in the past, because they really have become more prominent in recent years, or because, as some online "tests" have indicated, my mind has increasingly taken on a feminine cast.

I particularly liked the poems of Roo Borson, another poet who seems to have been strongly influenced by Robert Creeley. My favorite poem was:

INTERMITTENT RAIN

Rain hitting the shovel
leaned against the house,
rain eating the edges
of the metal in tiny bites,
bloating the handle,
cracking it.
The rain quits and starts again.

There are people who go into that room in the house
where the piano is and close the door.
They play to get at that thing
on the tip of the tongue,
the thing they think of first and never say.
They would leave it out in the rain if they could.

The heart is a shovel leaning against a house somewhere
among the other forgotten tools.
The heart, it's always digging up old ground,
always wanting to give things a decent burial.

But so much stays fugitive,
inside,
where it can't be reached.

The piano is a way of practising
speech when you have no mouth.
When the heart is a shovel that would bury itself.
Still we can go up casually to a piano
and sit down and start playing
the way the rain felt in someone else's bones
a hundred years ago
before we were born,
before we were even one cell,
when the world was clean,
when there were no hearts or people,
the way it sounded
a billion years ago, pattering
into unknown ground. Rain

hitting the shovel leaned against the house,
eating the edges of the metal.
It quits,
and starts again.

I'll have to admit I don't completely understand this poem any more than I understand why I'm so fond of Pacific Northwest weather, and perhaps that is part of its appeal. Maybe it even has something to do with loving Blues music.

On one level, of course, this poem simply reminds me of the Pacific Northwest, where the rain is usually intermittent. I like walking in the rain, reflecting on those things that have recently happened in my life, trying to put them into some kind of perspective, smooth them out.

Physically, of course, rain does smooth things out, takes off the harsh edges, whether the edges of a shovel or the edges of mountains.

Perhaps music has that same effect, serving as an emotional outlet to take the edge off painful memories or feelings that we haven't yet come to terms with. I know The Blues has that effect on me. Music allows us to share feelings with people who may have died years ago, and sharing feelings, in turn, makes us realize that we are not alone in our sorrow.

6 thoughts on “Roo Borson’s “Intermittent Rain”

  1. I think there’s some joy in sorrow, something beyond just knowing we’re not alone in experiencing it. Didn’t Whitman write that all things please the soul? Maybe we’ve had this exchange before, but if you were given the chance to live the rest of your life free of any sorrow, would you take it?

  2. I’m not sure if I would take that option or not, but I really can’t imagine human life without sorrow.

    How can anyone look at the world as it is, as it will probably always be, and not feel some sense of sorrow?

    I’m glad I’m not the kind of “monster” that could see others suffering and not feel that sense of sorrow.

  3. I suppose we’re glad for our sensitivities despite the pain they cause because they affirm our humanity. Henri Nouwen says such pain is essential to our capacity for ecstasy. A “monster? who lacks empathy is, I suspect, equally numb to pleasure. What was it that Eichman’s character said in the recent movie “Conspiracy?; at the end of the film, after meeting with the Nazi high command to establish the mechanism of the final solution, he is listening to a beautiful piece of classical music on the phonograph and remarks that its allure always eluded him.

  4. I have a copy of 15 Canadian Poets x 3 as well and fully agree with your assessment, despite the rather strange title. Reading this book completely changed my view of the overall quality of Canadian poetry from one that was rather negative to one that was rather positive. I particularly enjoyed the work of Anne Carson.

  5. I was intrigued by the Anne Carson poems, too, Jonathan, but they were a little long for my taste and way too long to type out. I would have had to get the scanner out.

What do you think?