The Endless Garment: A Pocket Epic in Five Collections – Marguerite Pigeon

Springtime is such a perfect moment for new poetry, and The Endless Garment: A Pocket Epic in Five Collections by Marguerite Pigeon is a shockingly good choice for spring poetry. A layered, complex collection, exploring fashion through the ages, and with more than a dose of Canadiana. Pigeon trails through all of the ways fashion has been used, looking at fabric, looking at utility, looking at different shapes and styles, and places it firmly in the different contexts and evolutions throughout time. Pigeon’s narrator speaks with the ghosts of fashion, from Coco Chanel to sweatshop workers, to others more peripherally on the edges of fashion, like the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The descriptions of fabric throughout this collection really tie it together. The language Pigeon uses to describe colours is familiar to artists, designers, and anyone who has ever shopped online. The damning thing about this collection is the way Pigeon opens the window to fashion in the present and the human and environmental cost of fashion. This is not an adulating reflection on fashion, it’s a critical and complicated look at the art form, but also practical reality – we’ve agreed, societally, that we need to wear clothes, in addition to some practical reasons for it (warmth, cooling, protection from various types of weather), but it’s a fraught topic. We express ourselves with fashion, and Pigeon gets into the different ways we have interacted with fashion, from Coco Chanel’s legacy as a Nazi collaborator to gardening gloves and the ways that beauty and cosmetics intersect with fashion.

Pigeon divided the poems into five collections, largely based on the standard fashion shows throughout the calendar year. But these poems truly do make up an unconventional epic, and one which is really powerful. Pigeon uses folklore, legends, and to my little Maritime heart, a Canadian lens on fashion. For our New Brunswick readers, there are multiple references to Acadia and Acadians, which filled me with warmth. Acadian representation for the win.

I really enjoyed this epic poem. There’s so much in it, and it’s both fanciful and critical of fashion, really striking the right balance between the escapism of poetry and the social critique which needs to be made when discussing fashion over time. The book starts with an ancient garment, ruminating on its construction, and the end of the poem is much the same: the narrator and a garment pondering on the impact of being a piece of clothing in the modern time, ruminating on its construction and context. There are so many beautiful pieces and parallels in the verses, and if you’re interested in fashion in any way – and even if you aren’t – you’ll get something out of this epic.

See also  Hypatia's wake by Susan Andrews Grace

Marguerite Pigeon writes poetry and fiction. Her previous books are Inventory (Anvil Press), Some Extremely Boring Drives (NeWest) and Open Pit (NeWest). Untangling her arm’s-length preoccupation with clothes has been an odyssey. Spiritually a northern Ontarian, she lives in Vancouver, where she works as a freelance editor and writer through her business, Carrier Communications.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Buckrider Books (Oct. 26 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 120 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989496377
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989496374

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