The Scene finds The Certainty Dream 'compelling'

The Certainty Dream
By Chris Morgan
The Scene
November 23 2009

As we turn the corner on the first decate of the 21st century, the insights of French philosopher Rene Descartes seem to have particular relevance. Descartes’ foundational work on ontology (nature of being) and epistemology (nature of knowledge) was partially undertaken to answer the philosopher’s own rhetorical queries. His meditations addressed the paradox of perpetual human perception, perhaps best articulated in the simple question, how can I know now that I am not dreaming? In an information-based society where reality is shaped by our science and technologies, the limits of knowledge and the authentic experience of the individual become important ways to gauge our humanity. In her debut collection of poetry, Kate Hall goes straight to the heart of these issues to explore what we can really know about ourselves and the world around us. ‘The genes / are an instruction manual, an identity / machine. The rats are right; I am frighteningly / like my mother. We are hardly here,’ writes Hall in ‘Little Essay on Genetics,’ expressing an existential malaise towards a biological determinism that suggests everything from character to cancer can be controlled by turning a gene on or off. Later in the text, defunct Martian rovers come to symbolize not only important scientific achievements, but also what humanity is willing to lose in exchange for greater knowledge (‘The twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity / were abandoned on the red planet / There was never any intention of bringing them back.’) With ample wordplay and wit to spare, this poet brings a philosophical dimension to her work without making it sound like philosophy. A compelling treatise.

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