West Branch, Iowa: Toothpaste Press, 1977
This little gem by Anselm Hollo is one of the most beautiful books, physically, in my collection. It’s a slim but perfect-bound book of 26 poems, of which only one spills onto a second page. The now-defunct Toothpaste Press used letterpress on fine paper and headed each poem with an ornate gold number.
The book’s title is one of those perfect puns, like bpNichol’s “Catching Frogs”: “jar din.”
In the poems of Heavy Jars, quiet, ordinary, even intimate moments are writ large, extrapolated into the universal human condition. Hollo’s subtle lyrics follow the cognitive path from moment to moment and often bubble with his signature twinkling humour. There’s a largeness of heart in these poems, which are also unabashedly musical, as in the first eight lines of “awkward spring”:
has spilled its
all over the angels’ bibs
the swan’s soft chest
white feathers fall
into the swamp
The short “i” sounds in the first stanza offer a delicate and ping-y quality, and the soft s’s, f’s, and “o” sounds give a contrasting luxuriant effect – both of which sounds suit the season.
Hollo also has an amazing ear for rhythm, as the above stanzas demonstrate as well as the lines “as the water goes / go / go / as the water goes.”
Heavy Jars contains two of my all-time favourite poems bar none: “awkward spring” and “big dog.” I’m also fond of the book because it contains this poignant inscription from Anselm: “Hard to say whether the jars’ve gotten lighter.” I like to think that he’s the first person ever to write “jars’ve.”