Rita Wong and Cindy Mochizuki, 93 pgs, Nightwood Editions, Perpetual nightwoodeditions.com, $18.95.
Rita Wong and Cindy Mochizuki bring together poetry, prose poetry, and illustration in a gorgeous graphic poem on the relationship between contemporary society and water. Mochizuki’s illustrations are fluid and rich, alternating between heavy and sketched as the tone requires; water is somehow both tamed and wild. The drawings anthropomorphize it, and lively movement pulses from her lines. Wong’s writing is often simple, but never simplistic; it’s to-the- point, etched with a meta-narrative tone that ekes out themes of integrity and respect gone missing.
Particularly valuable is the book’s ties to indigenous communities, and the voices that are carried through from those communities. In one of the most potent moments they quote, as a found poem, “the land beneath the concrete/remembers what it was like to be home to forest/it keeps trying to return/help it do so.”
The title, Perpetual, was an interesting choice: if nothing else, Wong and Mochizuki seem to be reaching out for either change, return, or metamorphosis. The call for the “paradigm shift” that is “urgently needed” in order to continue a working relationship with water as the way we know it. This urgency does sometimes manifest as overly literal, forsaking the beauty of their quiet rumination for blatant calls to action. Perpetual occasionally comes close to becoming more a piece of environmental propaganda than a piece of literature; however, that does little to quell the beauty and importance of the story it tells. The manner in which the authors turn contemporary Canada into a dystopic wasteland is deeply unsettling, and the ways it ties the artistic, the poetic, and the critical to do so are vital and compelling. (Kerrie McCreadie)