Date of Publication: 29 September 2022
A sequence of 108 prose poems. There's a dark humour at work as the author explores the trials of finding oneself in an age of lockdown and pandemic, information overload, regulation and shopping. Sowerby confronts an irrational world with emotional intensity & dark humour—think John Ashbery & Lyn Hejinian both drifting into something else.
Find yourself a statement brain. An illustrated study labelled ‘when important’ the way words harden on gravestones with moss and renewed looking. Looking or looming. Looming around after dark between the stones at the back of the village, would that be the right response. It would be what felt right. Little photographs. Lichen. Nothing but talking and a deer symbolises daily love, someone once said. Or read. Or drew. They were scared and the deer helped. Zoom in on its face, its golden eyes, the fence post, back to the eyes. The old lady offering crumbs. Not quite in focus but near enough. Careful not to step on the frog. It’s all go on this path. Straight and woven. The deer could be stuffed, hasn’t moved for whole minutes. You label it ‘reliable’.
"Post-pandemic, as life gets back to some kind of ‘normal,’ we find ourselves confused about ‘vaccines and time.’ Sowerby’s prose poems – each of which begins ‘Find yourself…’ – read like oblique reworkings of the opening tercet of Dante’s Inferno. This surreal arrangement is the perfect summation of our collective disorientation about where exactly we are nowadays. It’s like finding yourself stuck in a loop with Caroline Bergvall’s ‘Via (48 Dante Translations),’ Joe Brainard’s I Remember, Renee Gladman’s Calamities and Talking Heads’ ‘Once in a Lifetime’. In fact, this sick sequence is the poetic equivalent of coming to in middle age/post-covid and thinking ‘My God! What have I done?’ Or, rather, what has Sowerby done?" —nicky melville
(Find Yourself) at Constant Falls by Kathrine Sowerby [ISBN: 9781915108043]
Find yourself selling cushions on a steep slope. Business is slow. This wasn’t planned but the year has squeezed it out of you and here we are. Raking leaves and setting up shop. The cushions are numbered. Big as blocks. Come in bags belonging to no one. Get your cushions here. Roll up! You offer to sign the cushions, make an advert detailing their satisfying look. Their filling – seeds and sticks. Business is slower. Once in a while a barrel rolls down the hill. You move quickly. Stay up late. Maybe you should make a CD, music to accompany the cushions. Drop the price. Plan workshops. Birds peck at the cushions, poke holes. You could have your pick of jobs but this is what you do. That’s what you tell yourself and the people passing, walking their pets. Watch out, you shout, another barrel is coming.
Find yourself leafing through the catalogue of waterfalls. It seems obvious. Everyone is at it. But who cares. The effort of not being obvious is pointless. Pointed. You pointed at the small stack of colours bouncing off the water – the catalogue said you might see one or two if you were lucky and stood at the right angle – and so did everyone else. You booked an upside down workshop, there were only 2 spaces left. Upright is mundane, the catalogue says, the picture in the newspaper showed a waterfall blowing up into the sky. You think you like dreams and movies. You do. But real life is enhanced too. Real life! Juxtapositions. Justice and positions. Contrived and cool, desires remain and they are listed here, page 95. Order them now before they turn blue and vanish.
Find yourself listening to Oom Sha La La by Haley Heynderickx on repeat. Singing along. You particularly like the line – with olives on my thumbs. Can see it. In the Chicago Tribune she says her high school language teacher told her the title means something in Arabic and really she’s singing ‘mother, mother, mother, waterfall’ which she says is a sweet sentiment and a bonus to making things up and being open to it. You find that sweet too, or at least connected, loosely and enough, to take note and go looking for the bell hooks quote you took a photo of the day after she died, a passage about spiritual life being a commitment to a way of thinking and behaving that honours principles of interbeing and interconnectedness.
Kathrine Sowerby lives in Glasgow and is the author of several chapbooks including Unnecessarily Emphatic and Tired Blue Mountain (Red Ceilings Press) and the more recent collections House However (Vagabond Voices) and Tutu (Dostoyevsky Wannabe). She has an MFA from Glasgow School of Art, an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University, a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and has taken part in poetry translation projects in Pakistan and Latvia.