14 April 2009

Poetic & Typographic Form

This is the opening poem from Ross Leckie’s collection Gravity’s Plumb Line. One of the things I like about Leckie’s work is the way in which it often employs and yet flexes the boundaries of formalism, and this was something I tried to embody in the book’s design. I set the book using a type based on the neoclassical letterforms of John Baskerville (1706–75), types whose structure and tradition were in sympathy with the poetic structures and traditions present in Leckie’s own poems. At the same time, I subverted Baskervillian formalism on the jacket, cover and title page, employing a playfulness lifted directly from Leckie. This particular poem is from a suite about New Brunswick’s Saint John River, which descends from Little St. John Lake to the Atlantic poem by poem. It is reprinted in the poetry anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur, Volume 1.

Little St. John Lake
Ross Leckie

The frowzy lake covered with weed
is merely a little spilled water,
afterthought to an afternoon’s rain.

It is a cloudy day, the clouds touched
just once lightly in purple ink.
The mosquitoes will be out later.

French and English spill over this
splash of greeny brown and murky
green. Or they would if anyone

were here—they do back in St. Aurelie
where the leak of water trickling north
briefly marks a border between

Québec and Maine. But this is the
place where it all begins, the lake
a crystal pitcher tipping its liquid

into a trick of evening light.
Brackish, shallow, a seep through
the furze and spindly spruce, it moves

as if it has all the time in the world—
and it does; a foot sinks in the soft mud,
icy water slips over the lip of your boot.

Copyright © Ross Leckie, 2005

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