Moira MacDougall’s Bone Dream stands poised like a dancer’s perfectly still body; lungs clasping air tightly. The body of her work consists of meditations on dance, memory, mythology, and sexuality. Mac-Dougall artfully wraps these subjects around a concern for femininity and a love for classical mythology. She blends these themes together and expresses them with an honest and seemingly personal voice. Some poems are dedicated to the recollection of innocence, filtered through the wisdom of a mature voice; as in “Hope” or “Double Vision,” which remind us that it is the past that makes up our present mind and body. Other poems delve into dark dream-like images such as the closing lines of “Leaving the Tall Office Building for a Walk by the River” that reads: “I cannot resist/ the impulse to cut a perfect set of gills/ across my neck so I can breathe,” a strange and beautiful line that communicates a desire to alter the body so that the speaker can inhabit it harmoniously.
For some, dance is not simply the art of bodily expression, but it is also about pushing and exploring the limits of the body. There are moments throughout the book where MacDougall might be too reserved, unwilling to explore the furthest limits of her language. The truly beautiful images are fleeting, hardly uncovered. While at other times, with the evocations of classical myth for example, the poems seem slightly over-dramatized; as though she may be stepping too hard. Although this is MacDougall’s first collection, she has made a significant impact. She shows her first confident step and leaves the reader anticipating the next. While we wait, we can continue to revisit the beautiful and honest voice that she possesses.
Bone Dream is an apt title for such a genuine and elegant debut. MacDougall weaves together the body and the memory and the myth and the real to remind us that it is not the bone that holds up the body, giving strength to rise and descend, to twist and shift, to embrace and be embraced; rather it is the dream. (Eric Schmaltz)
by Moira MacDougall, $14.9595 pgs. Tightrope Books Inc. 17 Greyton Cres., Toronto, ON, M6E 2GI, tightropebooks.com