Understander (Chaudiere Books, 2015)
Understander is so small, I spent half of a Sunday afternoon just looking for it. The emotions within are just as covert, and organized in sparse, lyrical vignettes. Some entries crystallize transient fears and expectations through potent imagery (“A Visit”), others come to life through half-rhymes and onomatopoeia (“Improviser”, “You”). And some are near perfect in their unadorned simplicity:
where you just sit
to Nick Drake, sick —
watching the gorgeous crow
Despite its miniature scale, N.W. Lea carves out sections for poems to cluster like lonesome anxieties. Housed like strands of surrealism — the work in “Autumn Dog” assuming traditional albeit skeletal forms next to the flowing, minimal sequence of “Present!” — these sections do not represent a key to easier comprehension so much as new shades of Understander’s fragile psyche. In search of solace, N.W. Lea communicates a complex ennui without leaning on any obvious pathos.