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   Jacket 34 — October 2007        link Jacket 34 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

Lisa Bower reviews
Erosion’s Pull
by Maureen Owen
100 pages, Coffee House Press. US$16. 1566891841 paper

This review is about 2 printed pages long. It is copyright © Lisa Bower and Jacket magazine 2007.



The poems in Maureen Owen’s newest poetry collection, Erosion’s Pull, build meanings through dissection. The title refers to the process in which gravity reduces a mountain’s weight, resulting in the crust below the mountain pushing, or “pulled,” to the surface.


The framework of the collection links back to erosion. Without sections, each poem seems to pull from the one before it. Sound and meaning are linked, as are the poems and their forms. The space play Owen uses is mimics gravity’s push and pull. The space play accelerates, slows, and ultimately builds momentum.

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The poems in this collection are sparse and often elliptical; it’s as if the most important words of a sentence have been snipped and collaged. Old meanings echo behind the building of new meanings. Erosion’s Pull is a collection where various consciousnesses rise to the surface and where “out of the little curtain of disenchantment” words can take risks.


Even the titles of the poems allow for multiple interpretations. Many times there is an either/or structure to the poem titles; this option of title invites the reader to create multiple interpretations regarding meaning. In fact, the variation in titling pulls the focus towards the fluidity of meaning.


The possibilities of words and their pairings are opened with space play; lines are often broken for meaning or to break prior meanings to form new meanings. The effect of each poem is the creation of new rhythms and meanings. creating new rhythms and the ability to see how rods exist by themselves and in new combinations opens through Owen’s association through dissection. Though there are often narratives the narratives are elliptical because the words themselves take on new meanings. Associations are built through dissection, just as erosion builds mountains.


Many of the poems in Owen’s collection use space play. Instead of heightening “natural” or “predictable” pauses (where a comma might traditionally be used), the white space serves as a space for transformation. This new interpretation of symbols (words) may jar some readers and push them away from the transformative experience.


While it may be difficult for the reader to accept or enter Owen’s world, she is not unaware of this. She writes how:


& none of them
could agree on a single description of the horse


In this playful example, Owen the horse represents words and how, in the end, each person may have a different way of perceiving the world. Despite Owen’s understanding, the reader may still struggle with lines that are packed full of fragmented statements and images, that the reader has a difficult navigating the terrain.


In a world where some say “so much has been done,” Owen is able to reinvent the way in which the reader experiences language. Her poems are a place of poetic erosion: the dissection of language results in the rebuilding of meaning.

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