We can go to Margot Farrington’s The Blue Canoe of Longing (as Seamus Heaney wrote of poetry at large) “to be forwarded within ourselves,” to conceive “a new scope for our mind’s activity”—and that of the heart, as Farrington’s art draws desire out to longing, from the familiar to the exotic, lowly to lofty, in Catskill country poems and Brooklyn city poems.
The pleasure begins in effortless, exacting metaphors that create (for instance) space for the “orchestral silence” of heat lightning, the “rogue shapes” of clouds, the “buffed dominos” of Holstein cows,” the “starlight / beading like solder on a running brook.” Her imaging steadies our gaze on what we seldom glimpse of bird or bush or hill or people, for that matter. Her heart is in the right place, which helps ours get there too.
The poems take on large ecological, cultural, personal and other issues in playing out their dramas. Consider Robbie (“Counterweight”), a farmer pressed by his wife to kill a fox that had taken two of his Bantam roosters to feed her kits. He should kill the fox, but the fox is old, he knows, probably on her last litter. He resolves the small war in him, coming down on the side of the angels: “Pardon was Robbie’s province. / Sharpening, silvering, the old mother would persist / as long as rough gods bid before her fade into the mists / the island made.” And he’d be rewarded with “hatchings and crowings since.”
There should be plenty of crowing and hosanna-singing over Margot Farrington’s The Blue Canoe of Longing. Or maybe better would be paying quiet attention and being forwarded within ourselves, with new ranges for the mind’s activity.
The Blue Canoe of Longing by Margot Farrington. Dos Madres, October 2019.
About the reviewer: Robert Bensen’s Before (2019) is his sixth book of poems. He taught at Hartwick College (1978-2017), now conducts the poetry workshop at Bright Hill Press.