Flow, Fissure, Mesh

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December 6

On my web pages yesterday, I posted a version of a sonnet I have been working over for some time – and I’m still not convinced of its success, but I feel like it needs to go out into the world – occasioned by the anniversary of the so-called Montreal Massacre, the killings of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989. I think I remember the night – I was in Toronto at the time. It was bleak and dark and there was heavy mucky snow. I chose the sonnet for its deliberate and slightly archaic formality, a bit of the distance of craft. And because the fourteen lines correspond. The lines themselves have been rhythmically foreshortened and fractured, which seemed appropriate. There are some references to Paul Celan’s “Todesfugue,” which for me find a fraught kinship in response to atrocity; they’re not meant in any way to be glib, or to collapse one horror into another. Or to re-appropriate the grief of others. At the time, in December 1989, the news broadcasts focused on naming and identifying the gunman; like many of the ceremonies and memorials that have happened in the wake of these killings, especially around the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, the full importance of honouring and naming those women has become increasingly apparent – something that, to me, a poem can in its small way try to do.