One Dog Town by Dominique Bechard

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In her first book of poems, Dominique Béchard writes of the push-pull of departure and return, of our ability to take hopeful action while already inhabiting the dread of tomorrow’s failure and relapse. In contemplating the inevitable unravelling of all efforts and the seductiveness of familiar poor choices, Béchard’s speaker often seems mysterious to herself, probing her own impulses and memories but unable to “account for why I end / the day undoing the day’s paltry attempts / at poise.” Like an old-time bluegrass song, these poems are more often wearily resolute than wholly despairing, preoccupied with, but distrustful of, the beauty of change’s possibilities, their speaker ever-renewing her plans to act—to get out, to get better, or to somehow get her shit together.

Though the poems are situated in the anti-pastoral landscape and hard-living youth culture of northern Ontario—where “balsam nearly touches roof,” and poverty, isolation, addiction and heartsickness loom both inevitable and foreboding—Béchard’s focus is more introspective than sociological, pursuing “the mind’s paraphrase of days and nights spent alone.” Taking the form of reveries, nocturnes and elegies, these poems are often enveloped by various kinds of bounded space—rooms, relationships, letters, books, songs and states of mind. Though acute and unflinching in her description of the brutal realities of poverty and addiction, Béchard’s speaker wavers with competing longings—for joy and pain, confrontation and withdrawal, memory and forgetting—wrestling with both her sense of isolation and her seemingly “impossible proximity” to love and tragic loss.

Vivid in its imagery, lyrical in its language, One Dog Town offers intimate poems of craving and thirst—for the momentary escape of excess, for some lasting truce with the world, and for affirmation and love.

Gaspereau Press, 2019.
ISBN: 9781554471959. 70 pp.
Softcover. Near fine.