Therese Lloyd The Facts Victoria University Press 2018
For three months I tried
to make sense of something.
I applied various methods:
logic, illogic, meditation, physical exertion,
starvation, gluttony. Other things too
that are not necessarily the opposite of one another,
writing and reading for example.
But the absurdity of the thing
made all attempt at fact-finding evaporate;
a sort of invisible ink streamed from my pen
the more data I wrote down: facts are things driven,
as Anne Carson says, into a darkening landscape where other people
from ‘The Facts’
Therese Lloyd’s new collection resides in a captivating interplay of chords. You could say that any poetry book delivers chords whether aural, visual or thematic, and in the light of ideas and feelings. This book does it to a stunning degree. Once you start hunting for them – whether in harmony or not, between poems or within a single example – the rewards are myriad.
Hera Lindsay Bird endorses the book on the back cover: ‘The Facts is mesmerisingly beautiful, and shocking in its intensity. This is already one of my favourite New Zealand books. It won’t make you feel better.’
I didn’t read the back until I had read the poems as I like to start a book with a clean reading slate (if that is possible). I am thinking of the way reading this book sets up an arc between comfort and discomfort; we are the interlopers into what Therese chooses to let us see.
We enter a collection in debt to a doctoral thesis (IIML), and I am curious about the ideas picked up in the academic component.
This might be the first cluster of chords: shifts between ideas and feelings provoked by the writings of poet Anne Carson and the experience of a broken marriage and a toxic love affair. This might be an impetus to navigate relations with art, in itself forging a chord with Anne.
I am absorbing the chords as though they flicker between light and dark – and the poem resembles a cinematic space with the external world, and its pressing demands, blacked out so it is just you and the poem. This what flicks for me:
deep breath shallow breath
exposure kept hidden
where you live where you don’t live
At the core of the book the title poem, the standout-lift-you-off-your-feet poem, achieves the blinding intensity that Hera speaks of: raw, surprising, probing, accumulative, fearless, cutting, detail rich, lucid, testing. On either side the poems offer more subtle chords. Yet any element in my list for ‘The Facts’ might drive a poem. I particularly love the surprising turns of ‘Mr Anne Carson’.
Therese’s collection takes you deep into personal experience that gets hooked up in the poetry of another, in matted ideas and the need to write as a form of survival. It makes you feel as much as it makes you think. It is a riveting read.
I moved all the holiday reading
to the spare room
to keep the literature and the art books
I say squarely in the middle
of the fluffed-up sunroom sofa, I am
not to disturb the cushions
cushion—a curious word
its function of support
is ancillary to its attractiveness
and that’s why cushions have covers
in colourful fabric—I become
another word I like
because everything here is decoration
everything here is placed
The story of the things here is not new
from ‘Mr Anne Carson’
Victoria University Press page