Governor General’s Award–winning poet Arleen Paré combines the story of two first best friends with questions of the mystery of cosmic first cause.
The poems in First, Arleen Paré’s seventh collection, search for a long-lost first friend. They conjure the subtle layers of meaning in that early friendship to riff on to a search for how we might possibly understand the primal First: the beginnings of the cosmos that contains our own particular lives, beginnings and longings.
This layered evocation of the past—of childhood in 1950s Dorval, “a green mesh of girls friendships and fights”—and the intensity of the desire to know, give First its haunting beauty. “[T]he word though old fashioned,” Paré writes, “is whence . . . unconditioned origins” when “no worthy question is ever answered on the same plane that it was asked; how to frame the question not knowing the plane on which I must ask it.”
“Arleen Paré’s First is an intriguing Gertrude Stein as Nancy Drew mystery. Using prose poem narrative and an intense syntactic poetics, Paré discovers the cracks in memory as she documents the search for her first best friend. The cracks in this lyrical puzzle are heightened by a very active and assertive poetic language that compels as it decodes the investigation of childhood memory and desire. The writing in First demonstrates a powerful juxtaposition of the continuous present with the continuous past.” —Fred Wah
“This brilliant collection revolves around firsts, especially a first friend, ‘the impress of her never gone.’ So too with these poems—tough, sweet and poignant, so surely rendered and musically rich—the impress of these poems never gone.” —Lorna Crozier