canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Psychic Unrest
by Lillian Allen
Insomniac Press, 1999

Reviewed by Anne Lumley

In Psychic Unrest, Lillian Allen creates vivid images for the eyes and ears, often simultaneously.

highest register on the alto string of the cello
curls inside your ears
(from "Sapelo Island")

blues riffs running like a river
into the greens of ocean
("Fall Fall Falling")

It is good to see and hear through her work, to know where she has been. Her journey has taken her from Jamaica to hear the rhythms of the dance and the music of the voice as she moved to Newfoundland and then to Ontario. There, in "The Broken of a Black Man," the police systematically break and fall and innocent black man, a father, finally, in front of his family, all of this in living, tragic rhythm.

a sound from the vicinity of the young child's chest a bird's voice
they put my daddy to kneel
they put my daddy to kneel down beside the sofa and shoot him
they shoot my dadeee

You feel it in your face, your heart, your memory. And Lillian Allen is incisive.

how could it be that no one goes to jail
for the crime of Apartheid
("The Wait of History")

There is joy there, too, and vision. In "Rasta in Court" the rasta's defense in court against running into a policeman because he had to light on his bike is that the light of Babylon lights his way, and if the policeman had had his own light of Babylon within, he would've been able to see the rasta coming.

Psychic Unrest moves . . .

handful of hot plastered rock
pluck on collar-bone
("Black Hips").

. . . strong and soulful and true. A good read.

Anne Lumley lives somewhere in Ontario with various farm animals.







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