CROWS CIRCLING OVERHEAD, Holding Type to the Light


I love chapbooks. I have boxes of them. They’re like singles, like EP’s. A quick listen, enjoyment without the commitment to a full book. They are also, to switch metaphors, like details from paintings in an Art History textbook. They are deep dives, parts representing a greater whole, a way to see how the forest is put together by looking at the brush strokes of individual trees.

Edmonton writer Lisa Martin released a chapbook earlier this year and it is great. Published by Anstruther Press, Typology, is a series of 16 sonnets to the 16 personality types as described by the Myers-Briggs system. “The what now?” you’re asking, “poems about personality types?” Yes. and not just poems, sonnets, the best type of poems 😉

In my working career, I have been subjected to a surprisingly large number of workshops on personality types. There are several different systems each coming at human behaviour in a slightly different way and each purporting to be accurate, or “scientific” in their own ways. I’ve personally gone through three systems: Myers-Briggs, Colors and DISC. I’m not going to get into the relative merits of each. They are all fairly interchangeable and what really matters is doing them with your colleagues. They are fantastic team-building exercises and they genuinely help you make a connection, a shared vocabulary, with your co-workers. And in the end, the best way to bring a group of random people together and turn them into a team is to make them go through some shared hardship or challenge. And sitting through a seven hour personality type workshop definitely counts as a hardship for some folks.

So yes, the premise of “Typology” appeals to me. And of course, the poems do not disappoint. Lisa Martin has published two collections of poetry prior to this, One Crow Sorrow and Believing is not the same as Being Saved and there are echoes of both books here.

Lisa moves back and forth between the personal and the universal like a robin moves from the ground to the bushes to the fence to the top of the neighbour’s roof, cocking her head, letting out a different song in the same voice with each transition: from “Mary Pratt with her jam jars” to “God’s an ENFJ.”

Vinyl on the turntable, old needle
discerning enough to convert the feint lines,
fill four chambers with music.

“INTP” from Typology

And sonnets! I love sonnets. The heartbeat rhythm, the sonic confluence, not always strict rhyme but always deft: “opposite” and “mnemonics” for example. I know I repeat this often about poetry, all poetry, but especially with this form, you absolutely MUST read these aloud. The sonnet form is what is driving my creativity this week. I have been inspired.

I will admit that I have questions. I suspect that Lisa has left clues to what her type is, as I have in this post, but are there people behind all of these poems? Did she canvas people she knew had answered the Myers-Briggs questions, discovered their types, asked them to share? Did she ask those who hadn’t answered the questions to answer them? Have you answered the questions? Have your loved ones?

Like the idea of personality types, not one of these poems, these containers, holds the whole truth about its subject. It is the relationship between them that gets at the deeper matter. Before you go online to take the test, answer the questions, either again or for the first time, buy* this book. Read this book. Answer your own questions first.

*from either your local independent retailer or through the publisher at https://www.anstrutherpress.com/new-products/typology-by-lisa-martin

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