Following 2010’s White Shirt, kissing keeps us afloat (the persistent lower case is a trademark this time around) is Laurie MacFayden’s second collection of poems. After a long career as a sports writer, the Edmonton-based MacFayden is now a full-time painter and poet.
The poems in the book are indomitably lyrical, focused around the travails and transient joys of an unabashed “I,” who is a poet and a lover above all things – robustly if sometimes over-indulgently. Poems about poetry such as “it’s obvious you’ve been wondering” are blatantly a stretch – MacFayden speaks of “punctuational thuggery” and “the fetid stench of onomatopoeia” – and a stark reminder that poets should show, not tell.
The go-to structural gambit is the poem based on repetition, of phrases such as “to be honest” or “the truth,” and these become tiresome quickly. There are surprisingly few instances of conventional metre; those that do appear include lines that scan as dactylic (“your spirit showed up in my kitchen today”) and anapestic (“and that hymn that you sing when you think you’re alone”). But for the most part the lines are based in the phrase, and poetic music is in rather short supply. Much of the content is comprised of the dreary gallantry of a personal life, which, while indubitably authentic, is not necessarily compelling all the time.
Once in a while, MacFayden can make us laugh: “you told me to follow my heart / then mocked my sense of direction” is memorable, even if it does verge on the sentimental.
A poem entitled “the curious occasion of a man, turning,” which falls late in the book, is the most fully realized. It is a birthday poem, and while the opening is a bit wild in its profusion of consonants and weird collocations of words (“the perigee of asparagus”), and the ending a little weak, overall the poem is a heartfelt celebration of the past executed with a bright eye on the future. I wish kissing keeps us afloat contained more poems like it