Written by: Dave Cantrell
OK, first off. If you’re hoping to present a series of spoken-word disquisitions dealing with the poignant vagaries of life on this planet and the profoundly mysterious dynamics thereof, and you’re hoping to do so to the accompaniment of an appropriately evocative soundscape, you could do far far worse than having former Scenics founder and all around intrinsically accomplished musician Andy Meyers in your corner. Behind every instance we’ve heard of British Columbia-based poet Diana Hayes’ elegantly dispassionate dispatches, Meyers’ backdrops prove both pointed and artfully unobtrusive. In short, it’s a master’s hand at play, cognizant of his role as a supporting actor whose contribution is nonetheless critical to the project’s success. For “These Little Deaths,” the reverbed acoustic (twinned with the wordless femme-cantations of Susheela Dawne) speaks with a sparse emotional depth that brings a crucial nuance that allows Hayes’ narrative to flourish inside the merciless paradox of the acute Darwinian struggle that ensues every minute of every day out there in the wild.
But really, the core of the story here is the unvarnished yet in-depth observational nous that Salt Spring Island’s Hayes brings to these slyly piercing pieces. By her refutation of rhetorical extravagance, the most basic essences are given something of an unrestrained reign. Her words are almost reportorial, a matter of simple observance. And yet, and yet.
In the face of such stark yet striking language, the very elements themselves pressing in about the edges of just about every sentence, it’s easy to actually be kind of struck speechless, thereby rendering a response that in its grave silence both respects and reflects the severe ironies that permeate the natural world. Death and rot leading to sustenance and rebirth, the whole cycle playing out in ever-widening (or ever-constricting depending on one’s bent) spirals that by design are allowed to play both ends of mortality’s roulette wheel. Once such wonders of the cycle’s relentless churning are uncovered by our generally empathic human senses, once they’re seen, that is, in all their beautiful cruelty, the dichotomies pile on with blurring speed. The weak at the back of the herd culled so that the others may scamper to safety. The speed and volume of a river’s current creating in its back channel curling eddies of surpassing peacefulness. Fire ravaging a forest to such an extent it becomes more resilient than ever in its recovery. Our own bodies’ immune systems succumbing momentarily to a virus’s pathological insults only to knock the shit out it when next they meet.
The truth is, nature and her workings resonate down to our viscera, down to where the seeds of human intuition sprouted before rising up into the dark knowing corners of our consciousness. As such, it’s been more or less internalized to the point of collective saturation. The merry-go-round of life and death has seemingly become so quotidian down through the many poetic ages that one would assume that its dramatic worth (or gravissimis dignum if you prefer) would be spent by now, its stores made bankrupt by the countless visits to the vaults over the centuries. Diana Hayes, in her plainspoken voice, riffling with a brittle strength, proves otherwise. Especially in this time of digital over-knowing and its numbing consequences, we bloody well need voices with Hayes’ level of uncompromising matter-of-factness to help us all gain traction in the fucking real. Digital isn’t life, after all, life is life, and it’s all around us all the time, replicating itself in all its tragic consequence and grace. Beauty, in a word, beauty. [feature photo: Alane Lalonde, used with permission]