Apostrophes VI: Open the Grass


70 pages
ISBN 0-88864-420-5
DDC C811'.54




Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


As the sixth volume in his ongoing Apostrophes series, open the grass
carries on E.D. Blodgett’s major work, the meditative lyric series he
has been working on since the late 1990s, when the first volume won the
Governor General’s award. For those familiar with the series and its
particular formal mode, open the grass will prove a finely tuned
addition to the oeuvre, with its deliberate utilization of the lyric
“I” and “you” for purposes beyond the usual love lyric (although
love is one of the constraints working in these poems).

Blodgett has developed a long meditative line in these verses, in which
a high degree of formal repetition of core terms and concepts plays its
part. Where much of contemporary formally innovative poetry unstructures
conventional syntax, these poems seek an ancient, traditional, and
highly rhetorical syntax in lengthy compound-complex sentences full of
twists and turns of focus and desire. One of the interesting things abut
the repetitions is the way the same word transforms from what we know to
something larger and more ambiguous than we might have thought.

As the title of one of the poems puts it, these verses are full of
echoes: as of “the cries of birds” and “the silence after them a
silence that / is now a silence full, a silence that has entered our
time / that we can see as emptiness that has the colour blue behind /
it, clouds that fill it momentarily, air remembered in / another
sky....” This sentence stretches on for another seven lines, each one
both adding to and subtracting from our knowledge of the repeating

This is the way Blodgett pays homage to both the tradition of the lyric
and the tradition of transcendentalism, by conceiving and constructing a
world of nature that forever seeks to go beyond what we ordinarily see
and feel. His “I” and “you” participate in the “eternal” and
“infinite” search of all life on the planet to achieve the
transcendence our spirit intuits is possible. In these quietly intense
meditations, the possibility is felt.



Blodgett, E.D., “Apostrophes VI: Open the Grass,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16358.