fur(l) parachute, Shannon Maguire, 108 pgs, BookThug, www.bookthug.ca, $18.00
More than a millennium ago, an anonymous poet (or troupe of anonymous poets) composed the Old English song “Wulf and Eadwacer.” Around the year 960, it was transcribed into a book of 131 leaves now known as the “Exeter Book,” full of Old English manuscripts. In 2013, BookThug published Shannon Maguire’s fur(l) parachute, a suite of appropriately tangled poetry which claims the ancient manuscript “as its surrogate.”
The original “Wulf and Eadwacer” is ambiguous enough to have led scholars in many directions. Among these: the idea that the poem is a widow’s elegy or perhaps an ancient riddle. Maguire plays games with this air of misinterpretation, capturing a deep sense of mourning with a preoccupation on her narrator’s moaning wolf-husband, but structuring her poetry so as to prevent any firm grasp on meaning. Anchored on its ambiguous source material, fur(l) parachute makes for slippery poetry.
This is not always a pleasant experience, but it is often poignant. Lines like “clocks thrust empty samples of occasion” or “a glass can never be half shattered” offer little moments of insight that almost ring like haiku – a satisfying reward for the reader who’s just laboured through some mind-bending nods to obscure Old English texts.
Maguire’s collection follows no cohesive narrative, but instead leans towards modernization as the text progresses forward. What begins as a suite of Anglo-Saxon images is gradually pushed through time to meet computer-era page structures, rife with coding symbols and intentional typographic errors. This progression renders Maguire’s collection an experiential arc that is stronger together than it is apart. fur(l) parachute deserves recognition for being well-researched and decidedly original, but it is not for the casual, nor the faint of heart.