Forms of Grief

Sina Queyras · M×T

The title, M×T, is one side of a formula for grief: Feeling = Memory × Time. That formula is marked, as the cover is marked, by a multiplication sign. Emily Dickinson: “After great pain, a formal feeling comes.” Here, great pains multiply, and formal feelings multiply—but feeling’s forms multiply as well. From sonnets to erasure poems, from anagrams to postcards: feeling uses familiar forms, but also nurtures new and not-yet-articulated forms. Such forms emerge from ordered materiality (letters, words, lines): Is feeling also material, countable and transformable? It must be material, if it is a product of multiplication. The sections of the books are divided by electrical diagrams for circuitry which might harness and control this emotional materiality, such as an “emotional overload sensor circuit”. And yet even after emotions are made material: “The dead are not firewood. They cannot be collected, ordered or made useful to the living.” Grief can be ordered, words of grief can be ordered, but you cannot order the dead. They will somehow manage to multiply beyond your taxonomies: they will somehow manage to order us to grief, which multiplies our words and forms.

Michael e. Casteels · sorrow is to row

If M×T is a copious anthology of forms of grief, sorrow is to row is a small and solitary form: a single poem, tucked inside a little sleeve pasted inside its cover. The book—a simple, handmade object, made in an edition of 26—requires you to find its small poem with a few protective layers; not an impossible task, but an intimate and familiar one. The emotions of the poem are here again made material in the book object, in the physical act of accessing the poem. Grief takes on another form, a single form that is still based on multiplying: The poem consists of a single phrase (“sorrow is to row your boat nowhere”, from bpNichol’s Martyrology) typed out several times. The lines are all the width of the title (in a monospaced typeface), but the repeated phrase is one letter longer than the width of the line. And so the poem begins “sorrow is to row / your boat nowher / e sorrow is to r / ow…” — and the phrase breaks differently each time. Enjambments multiply, the meanings hidden within words (the ‘ow’ in ‘row’) are revealed by the breaking. The repetition may seem to be heading nowhere, but at the point where the phrase’s phase would repeat the opening line, the poem ends—not nowhere, but at a point: the sudden mark of an ending, the period, the full stop.

Sina Queyras, M×T (Toronto: Coach House, 2014).

Michael e. Casteels, sorrow is to row (Kingston, Ont.: Puddles of Sky, 2014).