Chapbook, Alyssa Bridgman, above/ground press, $5
Beginning a chapbook with Pink Floyd lyrics and a bright lime-green doesn’t tell me much about what to expect from this chapbook. Like the cover colour, Bridgman’s poems are arresting.
Charting the etymological history of the word “hedge” and ending with a political plea (“I want a world where the word border is not a brick”), this work combines the pleasant tenderness of a garden with the tension of world that surrounds it.
These poems are acutely aware they are not alone. They are always looking out or keeping in, preventing or allowing something to pass, creating the “organic barbed wire” referenced in the poem “Quick hedge.” Bridgman draws attention to how something so natural (a thickleafed, bright green, brushy plant) can be made into something so unnatural, as she explores in a set of haiku aptly called “Unnatural Haikus”:
created out of what was
once a common right
Whether she is referencing land, land ownership, plants, gardens, the very right to take up space, I don’t know; regardless, I am moved.
Bridgman turns, lastly, to the written word itself: “but I don’t want to write bricks,” begins the third section of the long poem “Between cracked words.” Perhaps feeling trapped by conventional poetic structure, Bridgman reflects on how she wishes to breathe when writing, to not feel walled in or bogged down or “in the dark room” of an ideological echo chamber. Letting the hedge grow every which way, left to its own devices, untrimmed and understood as the wild thing it is, is preferable, it seems, to the anxiety a closed-off world brings to Bridgman’s poetic effort.