Our Extraordinary Monsters

Our Extraordinary Monsters

Poetry

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About the book

  • Nominated for the National Magazine Award (Poetry) for the poem "Currency of Moments"
Our Extraordinary Monsters is Vanessa Moeller’s debut poetry collection which uses languages to build a written architecture where meanings reside. Correspondences are created, sent, delivered and read. Within this imaginary space Moeller explores her constantly shifting identity as a poet, as a woman, as a second-generation German-Canadian immigrant to Atlantic Canada.

About the author

Moeller, Vanessa

Vanessa Moeller's poems and short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals including The Fiddlehead, Prism International, The Antigonish Review, CV2, The Pottersfield Portfolio and Qwerty and have won several awards including the W.F.N.S¹s 2002 Atlantic Poetry Prize. She completed her MA in creative writing at the University of New Brunswick. She now lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Excerpt

Postcard of Avenida Jardines del Duque

That night the gecko became a half-moon scar
asleep against the white ceiling. The balcony door was open
even though the rain tapered from the sky, the thick green leaves
suddenly the skin of drums, heavy with rhythm.
The air lifted the fly-netting from my back
as I dreamt of dissolving into this earth,
my hair transformed into curling trellises
that flower into brilliant panicles of bloom.
I placed my mouth against the interior skin of forearm
and could still taste the ocean, the same ocean I fought
all summer who, like a deranged lover, had washed me up
against the volcanic cliffs until my legs were etched
with wounds, permanent petroglyphs of this journey.
I finally gave up trying to write descriptions in letters,
instead allowed lizards to crawl across the paper,
transcribe the script onto their pale bellies
and carry it into the shade of the orange flame vine
beneath the Chinese cracker flower. Words became impotent in the heat
and I grew to understand the cool understated prose of silence.
That last night each moment was an opening
of pores, of tiny doorways; a sensuous translation
into a language in which I would never truly be fluent.

 

The Keening of Icebergs

Geophysicists say it’s like something from a horror
film — each iceberg weeps its own lament
when crevasses inside flow with water
and set its walls vibrating. But what is meant
by these keenings? This is the sound
of ice sundered — like oak bending
to break, like the tones of an abject viola found
in the calloused fingers that pluck a string
ready to snap, like a voice reduced to rasp
when words like love or tomorrow scrape
the throat, corrugate the tongue. To ask
what is meant is to wonder about the shape
of an hour, how to fit the body to its frame,
how a husk of prayer can encase a name.

 

Awaited Reply

After a letter from Katia Grubisic
A decade later, as a woman,
I stood on Langestraße
and tipped back my umbrella
to reassure myself of the truth of rain
on my eyelids.
I wrapped the sensation around myself
as one would a coat that bears
the cologne of someone passed.
I sheltered under the canopy
of a street vendor, chose a pomegranate
and held it to my lips, inhaled,
vermilion staining my tongue.
Words saccharine, gritty,
clotted my mouth and left me
unable to explain to the man arranging pears
"I want this one" or "I wish the rain would end."
This city is not my home but my mother’s.
It bears down with brick and traffic,
and it contains half my language
halb meiner Sprache, halb meiner Stimme.
The other half arrives in creased envelopes
with your handwriting that stretches
a thousand miles of distance taut,
your words explaining
how, at the All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast Buffet,
you wrote me this letter on the back of a placemat ,
its left corner greased from stray scrambled egg,
a stain I can’t help touch as I read the line:
I saw wild horses and thought of you.

Reviews

How can this be Vanessa Moeller's first collection? Her glowing, sensuous 'language of amber' only emphasizes the power of these poems. They form a Möbius strip revealing one language, then another, as she puts us in a world of magical… >>

— Anne Simpson

When we met for the first time after a number of years, a poet mentor of mine greeted me with: "I see your poems are still bristling with German." One might be tempted to say this of Vanessa Moeller's poems,… >>

The Fiddlehead

As a rule, readers should be very wary of poems with titles that offer two nouns linked with the word "of " -- for instance, "The Topography of Love" or "The Ontology of Solitude." This device is usually a warning… >>

— Daniel Marrone Broken Pencil

Heather Spears, Rob Winger, and Vanessa Moeller have written books full of sensual clutter. All three poets, like magpies, collect images and words and pile them in shining, enticing heaps around us. At times, we feel buried—we can hardly feel… >>

— Emily Wall Canadian Literature