The title of Calgary resident Micheline Maylor’s new collection is a nod to the visual: the words and accompanying cover image suggest a camera lens. And poems such as “Ammonite” and “Borderlands” speak of the Banff region’s key visual characteristics: “On the verge of a cliff / is a view of the peak, a view of the river. / And if I fell, if I decided to fly / those features would still have little to do / with each other.”
However, the book’s focus is primarily interior, and the dynamism suggested in the title rarely finds its way into the text. The narratives roll out languidly, for the most part in free verse, although there is one villanelle. Maylor reflects on her early rural life, first loves, and family. The poet lingers over a lost love: “Did I tell you about the time I spied / you in the vegetable market passing / the peppers, on your way towards / the cucumbers? I gripped a cob of corn / until I creamed it.”
The final part of the book is an elegy called “Starfish,” in which the “whirr and click” motif morphs into a metaphor involving a watch (in which I expected the numbered sections to run out at XII, but they went beyond this). Following the death of the poem’s subject, Maylor inherited a watch, and she remembers: “You were never late for me / not once / were you late for me.”
Certainly, it is not difficult for most of us to relate to loss or inheritance. But ultimately the forces of sentimentality are relied upon too heavily in Whirr & Click, rather than the artful framing of the scenes or the unbound energy of the line.
Reviewed for Quill and Quire (from the July 2013 issue)