Moving In With the Dalai Lama
Chapbook, Lisa Gordon, 29 pgs, BookThug, bookthug.ca, $10
This isn’t — as the title might imply — a recounting of time spent as the Dalai Lama’s roommate, though that premise would make for an interesting sitcom.
Moving In With the Dalai Lama, in Lisa Gordon’s words, is “witnessing and reacting… a collaging of trial and ordeal.” It’s written entirely in couplets, most of them consisting of two complete sentences, and follows (loosely) the ghazal form of poetry: within each poem, the couplets tend to relate to the title, but they’re structurally and thematically independent from each other. The publisher BookThug suggests it’s “a way of making and entering the poem without nailing anything down.”
The compact style makes for a neat, ordered read — there’s no interpretation of metre required — but for a period in the midsection of this collection, Gordon’s couplets begin to make less and less literal sense. The text is comprehensible, but seemingly unshackled from reality: “The engine that did decries initiative breaking up. / Steps that integrate on a scalded afternoon go forward ambulating.” It appears Gordon is aware she’s being obscure: “There’s fractured storytelling,” she says in her bio, “only sometimes getting the world right.”
Though they’re organized under umbrella titles, 29 pages of autonomous couplets is a lot to digest. The pleasure in reading Moving In With the Dalai Lama lies in the discovery of particular couplets that impress. (Scott Bryson)