Sunday, September 22, 2013


we've got too many internets so we announce one more review by Tanja Cvetkovic.


“Sketches of a Lemon” appeared in 1980 and was published as part of the collection of poems Field Notes (1981), Completed Field Notes (1989). It is a signature poem of the postmodern school. Kroetsch’s famous question in the Seed Catalogue “How do you grow …?” does not appear in this poem explicitly; still the question resounds throughout the poem.
In the spirit of his postmodern technique, Kroetsch describes the  presence of a lemon in terms of absence.

The poem, consisting of twelve sketches, is a story without narrative, with paradoxical constructions without ordering. The lemon is compared to what it is not.

“A lemon is almost round.

Some lemons are almost round.

A lemon is not round.” 1

What Kroetsch applies in these three lines is his technique of naming, unnaming and renaming. Trying to capture a lemon in words, he says “A lemon is almost round”, then he unnames it “some lemons are almost round”, which means that not all lemons are round, and then he defines a lemon through negation: “A lemon is not round”. The speaker continues to speak of a lemon in terms of negation in sketch 4:

“Sketches, I reminded myself,

not of a pear,

nor of an apple,

nor of a peach,

nor of a banana

(though the colour

raises questions)”2

The attempt to determine what lemon is depends on absence. It is the absence of the lemon attempted to be created in words that invokes a lemon.

In the poem, Kroetsch is a poet and a painter who actually paints down a lemon on the table leaving a puzzle for the reader: how to grasp the meaning of the absurd sketch of a lemon left behind him on the white pages of the book.

The poem gives off “sensual, visual, tactile, olfactory”3 images, underlining the connection between the poet and the painter, the abstract and the concrete. The dominant image is the still-life of a lemon. Through the postmodern technique of negation, Kroetsch achieves an affirmation. The problem is if a lemon belongs to the abstract still-life world or if it is attempted to be created in words and turned into something concrete.

“poem for a child who has just bit into

a halved lemon that has just been squeezed:

see, what did I tell you, see,

what did I tell you, see, what

did I tell you, see what did

I tell you, see, what did I

tell you, see, what did I tell

you, see, what did I tell you,

see, what did I tell you, see,

what did I tell you, see, what

did I tell you, see, what did

I tell you, see what did I

tell you, see, what did I tell

you, see, what did I tell you

One could, of course, go on”4.

The lemon is written over as a photographic representation of the thing. If the reader wants to grasp  meaning, he should “see” and find the meaning on his own.

In sketch 3, the impossibility to create a material object in words is anticipated by the picture of blackberries, which replace lemons:

“I went and looked at Frances Ponge’s poem

on blackberries. If blackberries can be

blackberries, I reasoned, by a kind of analogy,

lemons can, I would suppose, be lemons.

Such was not the case”5.

By speaking of blackberries to describe a lemon, the speaker stresses the arbitrary relation between the signifier and the signified and the fact that meaning lies beyond the level of signification.

In sketch 2, the arbitrary nature between the signifier and the signified is further depicted by inserting the memory of the speaker’s father.

“As my father used to say,

well I’ll be cow-kicked

by a mule.


He was especially fond of

lemon meringue pie”6.


The paradoxical construction of being “cow-kicked by a mule” also indicates the arbitrariness and is stressed by the association of his father’s fondness for “lemon meringue pie”.

A paradoxical comparison is made in sketches 8 and 12 where the speaker makes the comparison:

“I’d say, a lemon is shaped

exactly line an hour.


The hour is shaped like

a lemon. We taste its light

on the baked salmon.

The tree itself is elsewhere”7.

By connecting the abstract with the concrete, the hour and the lemon, the speaker tries to define the lemon: “The hour is shaped like a lemon”. In “Sketches of a Lemon”, the tree, as a recurrent trope in Kroetsch’s poems, from which the lemon originates, is absent and is elsewhere. Instead of a single origin, we have no origin at all, just multiple possibilities to (re)connect with the world. Similarly, Kroetsch asserts in the interview that: “Instead of the temptations of “origin” we have genealogies that multiply our connections into the past, into the world”8.

Though the poem consists of meaningless accidental occurrences of words, it offers a pleasurable opportunity for the reader to decrypt its significance. The reader is invited to play the role of the maker of meaning. Meaning resides in reading, not in texts. Garrett-Petts and Lawrence explain that “the accidental thus becomes a postmodern aesthetic principle asserting the ascendancy of process over product, horizontal association over vertical dominance”9. The sketches are brought into new meaningful arrangements by absorbing the reader in an  imaginative and intellectual engagement.



  1. Great work. I am glad we can see some qulity work here

  2. Ceative writing nice.Thumb up

  3. Could you post more ? Robert Kroetsch is amazing writer, and good work by Tanja C