Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TM Wright's 'Blue Canoe' (perhaps)

TM Wright's Blue Canoe (PS Publishing, 2009) feels like the poet's most unmolested work. It didn't get grabbed and fucked and felt up between birth and adulthood. It made the journey successfully. Unscathed. With its heart intact.

Now, I'm talking about the work, but not my reaction.

You don't read this book. You take it. And you're definitely scathed by it.

It's a journey. You don't read a journey, right? You take a journey. You experience it. You get bumped around. Left hanging. Pushed. Shoved. Surprised. You feel the wind on your face. The blisters on your feet. Even dizziness.

The journey changes you. Leaves you, hopefully, with much worthwhile detritus. Which is literature's purpose.

I've tossed around my reaction to this experience for a couple of days.

I fought a foolish, irrational desire to be "right" about what it's about.

To demonstrate I understood it.

But why?

Even the narrator doesn't get it.

And I think that's the point.

Though I may be wrong about that, too.

See? There I go. Wrong or right.

I don't think either applies here.

Tom Piccirilli, a fine writer himself, wrestles with the book's "meaning" in the Introduction. He discusses what it may or may not be about. Then he correctly states that TM's fiction defies explanation. "You'll be stunned amazed, cheered," he says.

The book's narrator may be dead. Or perhaps several steps to the left of death. He resides now in a way station, a limbo. But he's hobbled. Hobbled by memory.

Before Blue Canoe, publishers needed to jam Mr. Wright into a marketing category. Horror. Or more appropriately, the ghost story.

from p.136:

A memory, perhaps, of a girl.

It was a pointless exercise then. It's beyond pointless now.

He's been writing about people who once were for a very long time. It's state we're all ambling towards. When we get there, it's not the end, though. It's not necessarily a beginning, either. It's a status change.

In Blue Canoe, the scary stuff has to do with memory. Our memories are like wet clay, and we choose to reshape them. We're in a constant process of rewriting and revising and retreating and revamping that which we know but choose not to. Because the truth of our existence smarts.

It's all in the skull. It's all buried in the marrow.

It frees us and chains us. It never lets go. Not even in death. Especially not in death.

Mr. Wright knows that for sure.

When we become the Once Were, we're saddled with memories and feelings and pains involving uncompleted dreams and unrealized hopes.

'Happy Farmer', the primary narrator (there are others maybe), does ride in a blue canoe, a canoe that connects him to the world beyond his oblong box. To memory. Hope. Chance.

Sexual desire plays (played?) a strong role in the "life" of Happy Farmer, and there is a sense that Mr. Farmer resents its terrible dominance.

From p.161:

I admit that her kisses, her embraces and her sweet vagina have
hobbled me and made me worthless.

Have you ever left a country and not been able to get it out of your system?

It has driven spikes into your psyche and stitched itself to your fibers.

The work of TM Wright is an undiscovered country, but a country so familiar because it resides in us.

I suggest you take a flight there. But be careful. Leaving won't be easy. Or optional.

The extraordinary is rarely so accessible.


Illustrations also by TM Wright


The book's dedication reads:

for Roxane, with love


  1. Spot on. As you know my from own review, I had one hell of a time trying to review "Blue Canoe". Even reading it twice now, I'm still not sure I get everything, though I think I have a good idea.

    That is the strength of this book, and a testament to Terry's writing, it can be about whatever you want it to be.

  2. Scott -- I concur. It's whatever you want it to be. It's a tough job for a writer to achieve, but Terry nails it.