The core of Ann Scowcroft’s first book, The Truth of Houses, is a sequence built on memories, none of them trivial. The set is called “(Palimpsest),” and the parentheses call attention to the nature of a palimpsest, a text written over erased texts. In this case, the “text” is a set of memories of childhood sexual abuse over two generations. This is no longer unusual material, but Scowcroft imprints the recovered memories on us in two ways: through a fractured time scheme that makes us decipher the events as memory recovers them, and through references to brain structures and their functions, like the hippocampus, the amygdala, and Broca’s area. Describing body states is a powerful means of conveying emotion, and evoking brain function is an extension of the method. As Faulkner says in Light in August, “memory believes before knowing remembers.” In another sequence, “Selected excerpts from the atlas of desire,” the poet conveys emotions by describing the formation of sounds in the mouth: she is a specialist in Applied Linguistics. This book needed more editing: the best poems at the heart of it are flanked by rather sentimental works about family life that do not have the same impact.
Bert Almon teaches a poetry masterclass with Derek Walcott at the University of Alberta. His most recent book is Waiting for the Gulf Stream (Hagios Press).