Thursday, March 04, 2010

Virtual Book Tour: Anatomy for the Artist

Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but both times that I've agreed to participate in Readwritepoem's Virtual Book Tour, the book for the month has been a chapbook that is essentially one long poem. Is the longer poem becoming more popular?

This month it is Molly Gaudry's Anatomy for the Artist, which you can read free online at Blossombones. Each small section/stanza begins with the phrase "we take me apart", and the poem tours the body discussing all the ways in which it is taken apart:

We take me apart--

by form and function of muscles bones of the upper limb...


There is a narrative hidden in the work, although it doesn't appear immediately - but the tension builds, and by the end the narrative has become clearer, with the narrator taken apart both anatomically and emotionally.

It's writing that takes me out of my comfort zone, and I didn't think I would like it at first, but it certainly grew on me by the end and I felt the force of the underlying story. And I am a sucker for scientific vocabulary - there was plenty to satisfy me there, such as cruciate ligament of knee and many others.

A few niggles, though. In particular, there are one or two places where the anatomical terms seem wrongly placed. Going back to find them, there are not many. But they certainly stuck out on first reading, making me ask "what's that doing there?" eg the symphysis pubis appears in a section beginning "we take me apart by muscles of the upper limb".

The second point is not so much a niggle as a curiosity to hear how one would read the work out loud. It makes heavy use of italics, and I always wonder how one would read a work like this and have it retain its sense. I wonder if two voices would work? There are sections that I read over about three times - once straight though, once reading the italicised bits only, and once reading the unitalicised portions only, and I felt that deepened the reading considerably.

I'm not much of a fan of reading online. I'm happy to read short poems on the screen. For something this length, I prefer to print it out so I can read it in comfort in a squishy armchair. The reader on the website did allow me to print it, but not very easily. I had to click through page by page, but couldn't jump pages and it would be the same for reading - if you get to page ten and want to check back to page 1, you can't just select page 1 but have to go back one page at a time, or use your browser history to jump back. Jumping forward would be even harder. And you can't just print the whole poem at one click - you have to print separately each time you turn to a new page.

That annoyance over, I enjoyed reading my printed out version - and the anatomical drawings on the cover and on the footer of each page are a delight.


deb said...

Thank you for joining the tour, Catherine! I appreciate your comments, and think I feel the same. Nice to know!

(I've linked as news from RWP.)

PS -- January has another copy of Underlife to send overseas if you would like to get on the April tour. Just hinting. :-)

SarahJane said...

Appreciated your review of and points about this piece. I'm going to go back and give it another read.

I also don't like reading longer works online much, though there are some beautiful things happening with online chapbooks. I usually read a third and decide if I want to print it out.