Pseudoeden: a Contemporary Utopia by Gregory Wm. Gunn, Lulu Press, 2012
No one can accuse London, Ontario poet Gregory Gunn of using cut-up prose in lieu of proper poetic form. On the contrary, Gunn is an unabashed new formalist, infusing his work with cadence, accent, alliteration and even the use of rhyme where it’s called for. But it’s his use of language – it its formality and complexity – that enables his words to transcend the ordinary.
Pseudoeden: a Contemporary Utopia, is Gregory Wm. Gunn’s seventh collection of verse and the themes he’s been known to scribe – namely love in its multiple facets, the splendour and intricacies of nature, and some stinging social commentary are all included in this latest volume. But it is his gift of rendering the natural realms that Gunn is at his clearest, his best:
From out the loam the marigoldAssiduously, so patiently
Allows the necessary time,
And morning-glory from the mould
Inhales sweet breaths elatedly
To spend proud hours in their prime:
Displaying flowers’ beauty creed,
Then fade away unselfishly;
For cognisant that in their seed
Lies balancing Eternity:
Offspring to immortality.
Gunn’s style has, from his early days as a ‘zine poet, marginalized his work within the greater CanLit collective. He is one of several Southwestern Ontario versifiers infused with the blood of the masters and hence his poems are usually found only in underground, under-the-radar publications. Not to let this permanently deter him, he continues to forge his own voice as his is no echo or mimicry but rather a decades-long blossoming of craft and wordsmithing.
Gardening is listed as one of his interests and activities and it is from this that his most memorable offerings come to fruition. Take his poem, “Resettlement” – he could have taken a much easier, lazier route to speak of weeding, transplanting and beautification and yet the work that he puts on the page mirrors the efforts he undertakes in his backyard:
Consider any site – these private groundsmay serve the purpose satisfactorily
where gardener with implements prepares
to wrestle weeds and stand a rising ardour,
vindication for some, lifeless for me;
submissive the spectre, spent inferno the man.
Mull over any time – an October daywill do quite adequately, ripened fruit,
untried withdrawing wings, the moment
when I, whom during formative years advanced
toward insouciant amplitudes hunched down
to pluck decaying yields from yellowing grass.
And subsequently I, the subsidiary,possessing a gone astray mentality,
the diamond lost, in a rhombic ruin of time,
the desert for whom all expanse is coral reef –
to track down, discern, suspend this strand in hand,
unravel myself from out a propagated past.
Gregory Wm. Gunn looks deeply into the terrestrial and the celestial, and as a result he also finds the frailties of the human heart whenever the observer becomes the observed. For the accumulation of discovery is tempered with an equally arduous quest for lasting love, which, for the poet, seems to be far more difficult to find. Pseudoeden will, for the reader, be a challenging trek that demands a mindful, slow-paced read, for “the mystery of many darkest nights / is in the beauty of the visions.”
One of the bonus treats of this release is the inclusion of the Gunnian classic, “I Came to Love,” which had made its initial mark in an old issue of Afterthoughts, and which served as a harbinger of future excellence to come. While some may dismiss love poems as “sentimental,” Gunn weaves his without excessive sugar or cliché, and romantics will be rewarded upon their reading. The title poem’s closure may best encapsulate both the poet’s technique and his search for the everlasting:“There’s a heraldry in all unseen, a crystalline / stream whereby we dream, spring forth, / and bloom forever woven on Eternity’s loom.”
-- Andreas Gripp