Rae Gouirand’s chapbook, Little Hour (Swan Scythe Press, 2022), uses poetry as a medium to explore themes of place, space, duality of self, as well as the relationship between nature versus human influence and design.
The collection of 20 poems opens with “Some Place” which encapsulates the speaker’s desire to understand their purpose and place in the universe as illustrated in the lines:
“I was born on a planet
flung off to
yield itself— fingerprints rest
& I hover looking for some place.
I is always the hardest
among the signs that are not
just rock, straw, dark, dust,
shell, spark, wick— everything but I
has use…” (Gouirand 9).
This poem illustrates how the speaker feels like being born on Earth means coming to terms with one’s use or purpose. Gouirand highlights how in nature these purposes are clear for things like rocks or shells—but for the sentient “I,” the ego, the human being, determining purpose and finding the place where that purpose can be of use is challenging. “Some Place” introduces the collection as a whole, with each subsequent poem acting as a further investigation being made by the same speaker, rather than an assortment of different perspectives.
Gouirand expands into an exploration of the relationship between nature and human forms in the second poem, “An Autobiography.” The juxtaposition between word pairings like weather and mouth, snow and hand, and day and eyes makes the reader reflect on their own presence within the larger environment, and conversely, the environment’s impact on them. A similar series of juxtapositions between nature and inorganic or human forms appears in many of the poems including “Early Neighborhoods” and “Canoe and Cicadas.” “An Autobiography,” however, stands apart from the rest of the collection for its unusual structural form. While the majority of poems in the collection are written in first person couplets, “An Autobiography” uses a different approach. Visually, every other line is indented to the center of the page creating a vertical horizon. This stylistic choice may invite the reader to engage with the poem both line by line and by reading the right and left columns separately. With lines like “two voices at once I try,” the latter of these options leads to a more conversational tone and feels connected to the core of this piece which focuses on the duality of self (Gouirand 10).
In the seventh poem, “With Horse,” Gouirand writes:
“The muscle, the teeth, the breath rushing
out of burned throat and through
those teeth into air, where it became
indistinguishable,” (Gouirand 16).
These lines showcase the symbiosis between breathing (a human act) and the air of the natural world. As the concepts of breath and air converge, the reader may consider what is one of these things if not the other? What are these things without the other? Fascinatingly, this piece references racing and running; with these active words the poem accelerates, only slowing in the third to last couplet with the word rest.
In the ninth poem, “Extinction,” the theme of place is transformed into a tangible shape. From this point in the collection forward, Gouirand writes with more specificity and compartmentalization with the repeated use of words including box and bowl—as also seen in “Simply,” “Our Tongue,” and “Far Blue.” Boxes and bowls are both containers in their own ways, and with a touch of mindfulness, these objects symbolize the importance of emptiness. In the same way only an empty box may be filled with belongings, it is only with emptiness that there is space for something to fill it. In these poems, the speaker’s search for a way to define the containment of self seems significant to the thesis of the collection as a whole. These poems present an idea that a home is a container for the self and words like box, bowl, place, land, mine, room, hold, space, outside, and inward solidify this messaging.
Little Hour invites readers to be meditative—slowing down to notice the precarious balance between art, nature, and humans by striving to “know every moment of sunlight, every moment of moonlight…” (Gouirand 20).
Little Hour is available from Swan Scythe Press.
Annie Fay Meitchik is a writer and visual artist with her BA in Creative Writing from The New School and a Certificate in Children’s Book Writing from UC San Diego. Through a career in publishing, Annie aims to amplify the voices of marginalized identities while advocating for equality and inclusivity in art/educational spaces. Her work has been published by Matter Press, 12th Street Literary Journal, and UNiDAYS. To learn more, please visit: www.anniefay.com.
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