Water Fragments, by Catie Hannigan (Tammy 2017), mesmerizes you like staring into water. It looks like a prose piece, but it feels like poetry rolling over your tongue. This is a book that you will want to read again, a book that runs along a deeper current in your mind and comes to the surface again whenever you encounter water.
Water Fragments is a slim volume, but packed with more references than you can imagine. It is broken into four parts, each focusing on a different type of water/ landscape: Islands, The Sea, The River, Rain. Each of these sections has several fragments within it that elaborate and explore a different aspect of the overarching topic of the section.
Here is an example from the second section, “The Sea”:
The sea is the one who waits
From A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes:
1. I am waiting for an arrival, a return, a promised sign. This can be futile, or immensely pathetic…I am waiting for no more than a telephone call, but the anxiety is the same. Everything is solemn: I have no sense of proportions.
The sea is the one who waits for the river. The river is the taking/ anxious body. The sea is the containing body. The sea is the one who waits. (pg 23)
This is the way that the whole book moves. Original insights and invitations for the reader to explore these features of water mixed seamlessly with the words that countless writers have laid down before. This is a jumping off point for the mind into the depths, varieties, immensities, and wisdoms to be found in waters. Water Fragments brings us face to face with mysteries, but does not provide answers, only a language to begin our own explorations.
It's a deeply meditative text, filled with silences. The path of the book constantly stops and starts, but it all leads down to the same place. It teaches you awe in the face of the water all around us. The format of fragments encourages a pause between each piece before moving into the next. The book sinks in you in this way.
Every fragment ties itself to poetry. Hannigan is clearly widely read and quotes from myriad poets and essayists. This seems like it would give the book a choppiness, but the author has so carefully selected these quotes that they flow naturally into every fragment and become an inseparable part of this new whole. The breadth of citations not only shows deep research, but also speaks to the passion spent in assembling all this material and then weaving it around personal insights, observations, definitions, and reflections.
The book will drive you to water. A compass point will turn in you and you’ll be on your way before you realize it. When I finished reading Water Fragments, I got on my bike and went directly to the nearest river to watch the light dance on its surface. If I lived closer to the ocean. that is where I would have been.
Jacob Hammer has been writing poetry for eight years and has received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poetry can be found in See Spot Run Literary Journal, Three and a Half Point 9, Fourth & Sycamore, Peacock Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Shantih (forthcoming), and has been featured in the Pine River Anthology.