Chapbook Review: Understander

Chapbook, N.W. Lea, Chaudiere Books,, $15

N.W. Lea is a poet of brevity, and the poems of Understander are tiny sparks of an intuitive mind. There is a dreaminess about this collection, and anywhere a reader picks it up, they are sure to be dropped into a strange new world, disoriented, delighted, and surprised. The poems often feel like glances at something commonplace, twisted and skewed by shadows. Lea’s cursory observations of people and things are astute and never predictable, yet are always accessible. Many poems have the succinctness of the Imagists or of a haiku, but Lea seems to be observing the mind rather than the world. He is concerned with the details we take in and the associations our brains make as a way to understand a moment. There is the occasional rhyming, but it is always fun and clever and never plodding.

Energy also comes from how Lea never lingers on an image or idea long before floating to the next one. The poems are not so much related thematically as they are stylistically. They are short bursts of stream-of-consciousness associations that I imagine were all written under mad moonlight.They also manage to escape the trap of whimsy by being so damn beautiful. I don’t know what half of them are about, but they are lovely little portals into somebody else’s mind. (Michael Lake)