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A Minimalist Epic

It seems that there are two types of poetry written these days: the over-taught confessional poetry that demands one's inner experiences be laid bare or the dense experimental poetry ensconced within many universities these days. Erik Vatne's *Cartographies of Silence* attempts to map the middle ground in this current literary arena with a superbly minimalist approach to the epic poem. Reading like Ezra Pound's *Cantos* shorn to its essential words and emotions, this long poem is constructed of minute sound bites of the poet's life. We are taken on a roller coaster ride through the poet's mind as if we sit within the constructing consciousness while the memories of a lifetime flash momentarily before the eye. True to the title, it is the silences between the memories that construct a map of the experience.

This poem asks the big questions but revels in the quotidian like the philosophical poetry of Wallace Stevens. The continued usage of snow imagery reflects the poem's movement towards the bigger questions of life and death yet the eerie presence of the beloved haunts the background of the poem and grounds it in the poetic core of human love. The repetition of body and music imagery helps to give the poem its corporeal presence and compositional form respectively. The poem begs to be read and re-read for these subtle moments and epiphanies that show its developing power to draw the reader in and create images within the psyche that reflect the images created in the poem. Like a movie reel, it demand to be read at pace as the pictures are created in the mind but then calls us back, with remote in hand, to freeze frame these exquisite moments.

Andrew Browne, National University of Ireland, Galway