the we in weather
NICK LAWRENCE / BEYOND CAN BE OUR MODEL
Lisa Robertson. The Weather. Vancouver: New Star Books, 2001.
What are you trying to say?
I often ask this about poems, but I don’t want to ask this of reviews. I like reviews because they illuminate poems.
Pronouns are fascinating in poetry. I can see that “we” is a big element of Lisa Robertson’s “The Weather.” But I’m not entirely illuminated.
I am charmed by John Ashbery’s use of “we” but I’m not sure I could write about how it works. Attempt: it is a group of eccentric individuals, vaguely sad and disappointed and somewhat slapstick. They float a bit above the ground. It is not a very big group, and it’s possible they have family ties. They don’t have a collective belief system or a politics, and I would not describe them as a “sangha.” I wonder how Lisa Robertson’s “we” compares.
If “The Weather” is:
a probing investigation of the resources available for contemporary poetic community
shouldn’t I know what those resources were after I read it? (asking as someone in contemporary poetic community, although my we would be yet another we, I think).
Robertson’s we “implicitly critiques the individualism so often ascribed to Robertson’s most important poetic predecessors, the weather-obsessed Romantics.” In other words, we wandered lonely as a bunch of clouds.
Robertson’s we is also political, bringing collective movements into the haze.
Robertson’s we is also communally ideologically delusional. Aren’t we all. Is there an examination of that delusion? I’d like to know. I think I might also be in that delusional we, but it’s hard to tell.
It … emerges, under the poet’s scrutiny, as a kind of national rhetoric bent on effacing its own rhetorical traces, thus a prime example of stylistic ideology.
Is that possible?
On the other hand, Robertson’s we is interested in “the affirmation of excess, ornament, wit, desire, extravagance of diction, and indeed the subversive pleasures of description and sincerity themselves.” Lawrence contrasts this affirmation with the delusional aspect. If they are both there, I’m not convinced they can operate separately. Maybe this is the source of tension that drives the poem.
Lawrence quotes Robertson:
More and more poetry is becoming for me the urgent description of complicity and delusional space. The description squats within a grammar because there is no other site. Therefore the need for the urgent and incommensurate hopes of accomplices.
These accomplices: a troubled collectivity. Is this also a delusion? I don’t think the poet can manufacture a collectivity. Even by hopefully launching dedications toward a you at the end.
Online: the We in “Wednesday”