The title of Jennifer Houle’s second collection, Virga, refers to a cloud formation often seen on the horizon, when rain begins to fall but evaporates before reaching the ground, only to fall again when the time is right. Likewise, the poems gathered here, written over a period of roughly twenty years, between the ages of 20 and 40 – many revised with a slightly wiser eye— explore what it means to develop an identity while continuously regrouping, reformulating oneself, reacting to prevailing conditions, and retaining autonomy in a sea of “rhythmic lies and half-truths.” Through the medium of poetry, Houle converses with her younger self, performing a kind of rescue job, bridging years through poetic reflection.
Unapologetic, and shot through lore, Virga investigates the tensions, inner and outer, that work to shape identity. Sensual, driven, and pragmatic, the poems insist that we “fall to rise,” and address the desires - romantic, erotic, familial, and socio-political - that transform us. Like rain held in abeyance, these poems were waiting for their time, and gathered together create a compelling, distinctly feminine and feminist meditation on maturing womanhood. Personal lyrics are set against the stories and mythologies of female characters who fell (or dove) from their stars, into unfamiliar worlds, including meditations on the Lost Pleaid, Dorothy after her sojourn in Oz, and the Greek goddesses Asteria and Astraea.
By turns dark, and infused with longing and fruitful uncertainty, the poems persist in questioning the forces that shape who we are, and the stories, symbols, and ideas we turn to for guidance as we wilfully create ourselves.