“Move the way a spider moves, tiptoeing across the bathroom floor without the need to get anywhere,” Grandbois says in the poem “As if any of it mattered.” Said poem features toward the back half of his new collection This House That and when I came across that opening line I felt the instant vibrato thrum of what linked the entire collection for me as reader, what made the project holistic and not merely a jumble of lyrical prowess to be dipped in here, read there, put aside, etc. For in reading Grandbois’ newest offering I felt called to read in such a way, to be a spider without need of getting anywhere, a spider content in its milieu but also exploratory.
Grounded, Yet Soaring
These are poems of grounding, the kind of poems that make me want to proverbially take off my shoes and socks the better to muck about in the earthen humanity of the words. Later in that same poem I felt a secondary bass note, an instance of discovery of what the collection’s emotional theme was, displayed clearly in that poem’s closing lines: “Imagine a world where we can invite the other in. / Believe there is no end to that world. / No anchor mooring us to this one.”
Each of Grandbois’ poems acts as an anchor, rooting me in the language of the artist, the expression, the insular dialogue that I am welcomed into, allowed to watch. But he does not pull back the ribs as a showman to create a spectacle. Rather as a doctor, revealing a jagged gash here, a tumor there, pointing out the ills, the gone-wrongness of human interaction and relation. I had a vision of myself riding a dirigible, hovering over each poem, putting down a rope to secure myself above what for me resembled a series of miniatures like those I encountered some time past at The Art Institute of Chicago. Beautifully rendered scenes of domesticity, of vibrant life. Frozen for as long as I kept my eye on them, moving through my imagination as soon as I wandered to the next. The journey experienced as a series of flights and moorings even as I retained that spidery closeness, the probing-ness as I clutched at brilliant lines, strained toward immersion.
In “Before bodies cool”, the longest poem of the mix, and perhaps my favorite barring the one aforementioned, he bookends a series of poised ruminations by first saying, “Gravity is the way we fall together,” before concluding, “And we spin, and we spin, / never letting the other in.” And while I ache for the character displayed in these lines, I in turn applaud the poet for allowing glimpses of this sort. That pulling back of the ribs. Not too ashamed to show us the reality of blood and viscera. By the end of the journey, I had no doubt that what I encountered, what I had been made witness to, was nothing short of sublime.
This House That by Peter Grandbois was published by Bright Horse Books in August, 2017.