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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > December 2018 > POETRY Midday and night

POETRY Midday and night

Collections from Matthew Tierney and Harold Hoefle deal in different ways with the paradox of existence

★ Midday at the Super-Kamiokande

Matthew Tierney

Coach House Books

The Night Chorus

Harold Hoefle

McGill-Queen’s University Press

A poet should be a high-powered observer, a master of microscopic attention, and an instrument by which one world can be translated into another, rather like a Hubble telescope for metaphoric transmission. In his fourth collection, Matthew Tierney proves himself a poet of this calibre and competency.

Through its powerful contemplation of existence, Midday at the Super-Kamiokande poses difficult questions while avoiding potted answers. Tierney nods to many major philosophers while considering cosmology and the paradox of existence, all, remarkably, with strict attentiveness to sound, structure, and irony within the unit of the line. His considerations range through psychoanalysis, ontology, infinity, meaning, emptiness, distortion, logic, and cause, while simultaneously providing punchlines such as, “In the quad the dorky couple / poses for engagement photos for a photog / who’s like a headache performing a handjob.” Or, “Metaphysics is so hokey. The plot twists! / You put your whole self in. / You turn it all about.”

Tierney’s strength comes from the use of specific images to represent metaphysical and ontological wrestling: A life of true belief needs no justification. Stand behind any window in my many-roomed dream house and your gaze falls on flat earth.

Two, maybe three cardinals alternate summer-long as phenomena within the property-line thicket.

Every year the same two, maybe three, I see no alternative.

Pure reason has let me alone to click beads like antinomies. Each word carefully represents two things at once; the cardinal carries an associative meaning a robin would not. This attentiveness creates the delight of discovery. Tierney shows us his capacity for being both an intellectual and the court jester in the same breath.

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Books of the Year; Experts pick 40 of 2018's most notable titles; Plus: Looking forward to 2019