Paulette Jiles Linda Rogers - Essay

Linda Rogers

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Paulette Jiles flashes words through train windows. Every poem in her first book, Waterloo Express, is a frame in a travelogue. The poems are points in the locus of a journey which takes the character everywhere in search of an author….

The secrets of each new landscape are released with terrific energy as the poet tears through earth and air in the search for herself. She becomes the vehicle she rides, burning steel and cresting waves, learning and looking. In the process, she leaves the feminine stereotypes behind. She has taken over the traditional territory of the masculine romance figure, understanding earth and water, which have no dominion over her. She is always ahead of the seasons….

Jiles is a lyric poet tumbling songs off the high wire where she skips alone. The dizzy music is checked only when she stumbles on the similies she has failed to heat into metaphor. The fantasy is aborted when we collide with "like", the clumsy reminder that we are only riders of the subway and not astronauts. There is no time in Jiles' fast ride for ordinary machinery. The images have a life of their own.

In visual terms, the poems are like the paints of Marc Chagall. Gorgeous disconnected figures float by on wisps of cloud and magic carpets of flowers. All the paraphernalia of life's circus is assembled in a giant mobile moving in the wind.

So much nervous energy is consumed in the effort to organize and move through the jumble of images. It is given off in the music of exposed nerves. The sounds of ordinary life, selected, become surreal, a neurotic accompaniment to the poetry….

In the process of trying on countries, people and suits of clothes, Jiles has become a troubadour. Music is her real author. It is the sound of the footsteps that keep her walking….

Always she is listening, trying to find some meaning in strange voices; the scream of wheels on track, the noises of loving and dying, and the wise conversation of birds. (p. 122)

Linda Rogers, in Canadian Literature, Summer, 1974.