Book Review: Troubled

RM Vaughan’s latest collection of poetry works on the tensions between betrayed and traitor. Telling the story of a therapist crossing the lines between therapist to become the speaker’s lover with romance and tension and the added drama of Vaughn revealing in the endnotes that the case is autobiographical, this collection is potent and memorable. One particularly haunting piece is that of the letter Vaughn writes to the defence’s legal counsel, with the therapist’s name blacked out. Recalling soviet censorship the letter breaks fourth wall and calls into doubt with the veracity of the letter and the break in poetic language the ability of language to communicate the violation that occurs when a societal-designated boundary of trust is broken. The earlier pieces about falling in love set the tone for instance: “because you are so very clever, smart as salt”.

Vaughan’s eye is typically clear, for instance in the court room, “Such attractive lawyers’ work, this dismantling of a man/lancet skirts, bull-nose pumps, blouses in shovel colours.” Vaughan’s disgust at his therapist’s lack of embarrassment or shame is palpable, making his recognition of his lover’s guilt more poignant, “Because I do love you, careless and evil man,/ and I do fall, every day, and it is not balletic, not feline,/ it is belly first, arms wreathing head/ in disbelief, cascades of neck fat, butter ripples and foot bottoms ass up…”. The drama of self hatred against victimizer hatred is very compellingly rendered. (Angela Hibbs)

by RM Vaughan, $16.95, 77 pgs, Coach House Books, 401 Huron Street on bpNichol Lane, Toronto, ON, M5S 2G5

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