Collection: The Irrationalist
Author: Suzanne Buffam
TO LIVE HERE
I built a fire, the blue sky having abandoned me.
A fire to befriend.
A fire to introduce me to the winter night.
A fire to live better.
I fed it what the day had fed to me.
Forests, foliage, wheat fields, vines.
Nests and their birds, houses and their keys.
Insects, flowers, furs, festivals.
I lived with the solitary sound of crackling flames.
With the solitary perfume of their heat.
I was like a boat coursing in closed water.
Like the dead I had but one element.
Although published by Canarium Books in 2010, the lyric and philosophical lucidity of Suzanne Buffam’s The Irrationalist makes it seem just-written. The book is concerned with process—the writing process, the processes of thinking and being—and, consequently, Buffam’s poems practice a patience that’s both rare and brave. “Trying,” for example, begins as a meditation on trying to have a child and then evolves into a meditation on faith and science, and this evolution, which accumulates through fragments of thought and space, reminds us how poems measure and endure time, occupying their own life spans. The book’s centerpiece, “Little Commentaries,” does similar work, collecting exquisitely irreverent observations on, among other topics, Antigone, ghosts vs. zombies, winter, Romanticism, paradise, Nova Scotia, exile, parakeets, and Borges. These tiny lyric sparks are diamond-sharp and make for an addictive read, one I keep returning to, gratefully, in moments of disarray: it’s as if Buffam were marrying Anne Carson to Benjamin Franklin, or Bartlett’s Quotations to Marcus Aurelius. She’s also quite wonderful in the shorter poems surrounding “Little Commentaries,” and “To Live Here” [see above] is one that flaunts her stunning fusion of wit and quiet revelation.