Book Review: Thought Horses, by Rachel Bush

The Wellington launch of Thought Horses, and a memorial of Rachel Bush’s life, will happen this evening at Vic Books in Kelburn, from 5.30pm. 

cv_thought_horsesRachel Bush’s newest collection of writing, Thought Horses, begins ‘between 4.30 and 6.30,’ and quickly stacks a list of thoughts onto the reader. The opening and title poem quickly puts the reader into the strange position of being a part of the poem, of belonging in it rather than being a voyeur into the poet’s world. While it begins with an almost command like ‘Some things to think of,’ it slowly moves into a list of ‘You think’ this and that, placing the reader in the position of imagining all that the poet wants us to.

While the collection does not continue in this same style, this introduction helps to engage the reader from the beginning. Bush then continues by bringing in outside references, things that we as readers can know and understand. There are numerous references made to the work of Anne Carson, especially in the poems ‘Anne Carson, Until I Fall Asleep’ and ‘Five Answers for Anne Carson,’ as well as ‘Made of Myrrh,’ which begins with a direct quote from this other writer. Bush also adds brief references to other works such as Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle. These other works provide a point of reference for the reader allowing an easy entry into the text.

These details are important, as a lot of the poetry in Thought Horses does feel quite personal, so these doorways help to prevent isolating the reader as purely being a voyeur. There are small intimate moments, like the mothers singing in the poem Sing Them:
When our mothers sang,
the words became us
and the songs became us.

In the poem Early there is a haunting quietness:
One ruru calls
its own name.
Its wings are invisible.
They make no sound.

These moments feel so quiet that it feels almost invasive to intrude upon their words.

The poem Little Bear is more personal as the narrator’s voice tells us about its mother:
One of my mother’s names
was Ursula. Mary Ursula.
Consider that open vessel,
that curved vase of a vowel.

In the poem Near Timaru ‘My father drove us / to a frozen lake’, and another personal scene opens up. These small but intimate moments contrast with the more open and inviting poems, creating an interesting dynamic. By moving between these quieter and louder poems, Bush forces the reader into a more thoughtful position. One doesn’t know what to expect from the next poem, and so thoughts must race to keep up with the changing landscape of this collection.

In the end Thought Horses is an interesting book of poems. It shifts itself constantly from one position to the next, and this dynamic helps to create a unique experience for the reader.

Reviewed by Matthias Metzler

Thought Horses
by Rachel Bush
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776560721

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