With Dream of the Lake (Bull City Press), Caroline M. Mar brings us to a past world, painted as vividly as ours, made of pretty words and tragic events that leave us feeling wet and sticky, as if the algae of the lake refuse to let us free from it.
Mar’s poems are so tactile that our bodies seem to live through them. The five senses are explored excellently, like in Stage 1: Cold Shock. Threat no. 1 Loss of Breathing Control.
“My body in the summer heat, skin a prickling of sweat, the stick
of flesh to seat before I rise, look out over the edge, and dive.”
What is especially interesting about the whole book though is how water intersects with her family history, in particular with her experience as the descendant of a Chinese Railway Worker. The Chinese Railway Workers helped construct part of the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1880 to 1885, and of 17.000 men four thousand lost their lives in the process. None of these men were celebrated after the completion of the railway. Mar brings light to the issue through her poems, many of which seem written for her great-grandfather, or at least thinking of him.
The last and longest poem of the collection is, indeed, A Correspondence. The whole poem is a journey through the author’s emotions. A lack of idealization of the past and of her great-grandfather, whom she’s writing to, strikes the reader throughout the poem. Mar knows it wasn’t all flawless, it wasn’t all happiness, and she knows her relationship to said past is, unfortunately, limited–even though, she says, as if in passing, she is her ancestors’ dream come true, with gold jewels and dresses.
And while sometimes she positively alters what happened, she does it consciously, saying:
“Tell me about him, who
loved you best. Who you hid,
who hid you.
You’re teaching me the beauty
of revisionist history. I make you lovers
because it is in my power, because
my ancestral altar needs a queerer root.”
Valentina Linardi (she/her) holds a degree in Linguistic and Cultural Mediation from the University of Milan. Her writing has been published in Square Wheel Press and in The Hearth Magazine. She’s usually busy studying new languages, reading, or oversharing about everything and more on her website – valentinalinardi.com. You can find her on Twitter at @Valentina_L1997