Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture

Lisa Robertson’s intelligence and linguistic virtuosity is fully on display in this delightful book. It’s a collection of poetic essays about art, architecture and nature and is the sort of book that begs for multiple readings. Robertson shares Gertrude Stein’s love for the complexity of language and thought. A skilled poet, Robertson also has the eye of a naturalist, as shown in her piece on the once-faddish Himalayan blackberry: “In fact, the Himalayan blackberry insistently makes new hybrid architectures, weighing the ridgepoles of previously sturdy home garages and sheds into sway-backed grottoes, transforming chain link and barbed wire to undulant fruiting walls, and sculpting from abandoned cement pilings Wordsworthian abbeys. We too are fascinated by its morphological lust.” Since so much of this book is about design, Coach House has done an excellent job of presenting Robertson’s work in an ideal setting. The photographic plates make this book a visual treat.

I have little doubt that this book will inspire readers to take their own occasional walks, to look at their cities or country roads, or forests or wheat fields with new eyes: “Kids in their nylon halos of beauty were passing. We saw the street lamps notate their grace.” To add to the riches of this dense little book, Robertson’s notes following the essays create a reading list that will offer months of intellectual delight. (Vincent Ponka)

by Lisa Robertson, $19.95, 276 pgs, Coach House Books, 401 Huron Street (rear) on bpNichol Lane, Toronto, ON, M5S 2G5, chbooks.com

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