[Originally published at Ottawa Poetry Newsletter, 24 May 2011]
Lime Kiln Quay Road
Ottawa: above/ground press, May 2011.
Ben Ladouceur has had a wonderful nine months since returning to Ottawa following a year spent working in Suffolk, England. He gave a widely heralded reading on the opening night of Versefest alongside Michael Dennis, in April he read as part of University Night at Tree Reading Series, the chapbook self-portrait as the bottom of the sea at the beginning of time was published by The Moose & Pussy, and now Lime Kiln Quay Road is seen in to print by rob mclennan’s above/ground press, not to mention chapbooks before his departure: Alert (AngelHouse Press, 2010) and The Argossey (published by my own Apt. 9 Press—full disclosure).
Lime Kiln Quay Road sees him working further in serial forms, marrying concise individual pieces with breadth and larger project conception. It is a book concerned with growth (or more accurately, stuttering and failing growth):
There was a rock rumoured to grow
one inch every year.
It was a letdown.
In these poems, set in the countryside around the hostel in Suffolk where Ladouceur was employed, the reader finds stagnation and boredom, as well as questions of intention and consequence:
The indifferent roads collect rain
in depressions caused by tires
and make the drive tricky
but it’s neat
that the depressions exist
that when you go somewhere
everything behind you
is a little bit flatter.
that’s easy for me to say,
I never did the driving.
In the stagnant (though often beautiful) landscape, the figures of these poems develop sensitivity to the movement of their own identities:
We occupy the eye
in quietude of storm
wet weather soft against our roof
like gavels wrapped in satin
it’s the eye that is moving.
For now we are still.
There is an disconnect between the bodies of the figures and the landscape, one that undermines predictable expectations of poetry located in the rural or pastoral settings, as was an insistence upon the presence of the lower bodily stratum that grounds much of Ben’s work in the body itself:
It isn’t as though a tree
will sprout there
a very acidic and thankful tree
made of all the liquids
our bodies didn’t need.
That sort of thing doesn’t happen.
In Ottawa, those paying attention have known that Ben is a poet to follow. We have been lucky to have the opportunity to watch this work develop. Lime Kiln Quay Road makes plain that Ben is already fulfilling his vast promise. He has strong control over the developing momentum of this book, as well as the turns that startle the reader. With above/ground press’s famously large network of distribution, this book will hopefully catch the eye of some new readers around the country. Heads up, folks.