These brief but concentrated pieces of literary work seem at first simple in their approach and straightforward in their intent: designed to be read easily and then to be carried away in our memories. As if they were ours. But when one person writes ?this is what happened, this is what I remember, this is what I saw, this is what I know,” any reader stands in for and thereby becomes the absent ?I” or ?eye” of that written text. The deconstruction of this inescapable process of language, metaphor, is what preoccupies Lionel Kearns in A Few Words Will Do.
At first, the narrator seems caught up in the mystery of the unfathomably limitless depth of motherly love in the poem ?Dorothy”; with the alchemical marriage of time and space in ?Lines for Gerri” (and what are to become the recurrent phases ?here to then” and ?between now and there”); then he proceeds through naïve realist scenes of family life and birth in ?With My Daughter” and ?Miracle” to find the ongoing wonder of his father’s unfathomable actions (and the book’s metanarrative) in ?Composition.” This celebration of apparent meaning at the heart of the ordinary that opens the book is so accomplished it seems unassailable with the tools of deconstruction. The book’s centre however turns on a selection of hybrid ?open source” virtual prose meditations on chaos, chance and consequence, after which the narrator increasingly begins to address the poem itself as the subject, moving the reader into a position of explicit complicity with the writer, a complicity in which ?A Muse” cannot escape the irony of its linguistic shadow, ?amuse.” There is a materiality to the world over which the greatest abstraction cannot triumph, Kearns proposes here: all abstraction seeks to arrest time; all sentiment seeks to reverse it.
Lionel Kearns was born in Nelson, British Columbia. In 1955, he moved to Vancouver to work on the CPR trains, and to enroll at the University of British Columbia, where he associated with a number of young writers, including George Bowering, Frank Davey and others in the TISH group.
Since his first publication in 1959, Kearns has been steadily producing poetry volumes as well as poems, stories and essays that appear in various magazines and anthologies in Canada and around the world. His work ranges from traditional pieces in print to more experimental and dynamic screen-based forms.
“Lionel Kearns has been hovering over our poetry scene for years. Now we have his selected poems at last, and the bird has landed.”
— George Bowering”