Posts: Reviews »
Rachel Zolf. Janey’s Arcadia. Toronto: Coach House, 2014.
~reviewed by Shane Rhodes
Although the cover of Janey’s Arcadia casts a calm, blond gaze over a blue and gold prairie landscape (the cover image is from a 1930 Canadian immigration pamphlet), the book is anything but Arcadian. Beneath this surface of seeming rural contentment, Zolf’s book writhes with remembering, dismembering and membering.
As with many projects of memory, found material forms the poetic base. With constantly shifting dictions and tone within any one poem, it is clear that Zolf mashes together many found texts [...]
Kerry-Lee Powell. Inheritance. Windsor, ON: Biblioasis, 2014.
~reviewed by Phoebe Wang
Diving into the atmosphere of Kerry-Lee Powell’s fierce debut, Inheritance, requires some practice. As though entering a wormhole or underwater cavern, I had trouble at first making out the dark shapes of Powell’s “ancient ruins” and “drowned villages”. Gradually, in this world that is “God-lit. Dimmed by Germanic gloom,” the reader begins to recognize the features of an unearthly poetic landscape, replete with carved masks, vocal, untamed women, silent father-gods. Powell is a kind of diver and a diviner through memory [...]
George Elliott Clarke. Traverse. Exile Editions, 2014
~review by Roy Wang
To those who have followed George Elliot Clarke’s writing, this commemoration of his 30th anniversary as a poet adds some biographical background to the man and his favoured personas. (I use biography and omit the ‘auto’ because this is the poet writing about the man.) And one can no more tire of reading Clarke’s poetry than hearing Albert Collins play the blues.
Sing and play Clarke does, eschewing the natural AAB form to instead belt out loosely constructed sonnets, driven and riffing with puns, [...]
Matthew Zapruder. Sun Bear. Toronto: House of Anansi, 2014.
~reviewed by Christopher Doda
Don’t be put off by the exceedingly bland cover art: US poet Matthew Zapruder’s fourth collection Sun Bear contains much that warrants attention. Since his first book, Zapruder has been a poet of small moments; even when he takes on big topics, he eschews grand pronouncements in favour of a poignant ‘in,’ a moment where greater abstract forces, like politics or history, strike home on the average person.
Sun Bear finds him, in comparison to earlier collections, contemplating domestic life, [...]
Ken Babstock. On Malice. Toronto: Coach House, 2014.
~reviewed by David Swartz
There is something extraordinary about Ken Babstock’s ability to infuse, appropriate and intermingle his own voice with other poetic voices, while at the same time remaining true to his own fancy. “Perfect Distant Blue Objects,” Babstock’s poetic response to William Hazlitt’s 1822 essay “Why Distant Objects Please,” is a poem with a great deal of energy, profusion and risk taking, cutting into the metaphysical task of poetry itself (“Camera in pen. Lens”, or “We are not separated, / we are [...]
Jan Zwicky. Vittoria Colonna, Selections from the Rime Spirituali, English Texts. Erin, ON: The Porcupine’s Quill, Inc., 2014.
~reviewed by rob mclennan
The new collection Vittoria Colonna, Selections from the Rime Spirituali, “with photographs of Josep Maria Subirachs’ Passion Façade” by Robert Moody and “English Texts by Jan Zwicky,” is a curiosity. The book is made up of “ten Renaissance Italian poems” by “Vittoria Colonna, the first woman to achieve wide recognition as a poet in Renaissance Italy.” Compelling as both poet and historical figure, Vittoria Colonna was considered a rarity in [...]
Karen Enns. Ordinary Hours. London, ON: Brick Books, 2014.
~ Reviewed by Michael Greenstein
From the opening notes in “Prelude,” music plays a thematic and technical role throughout Karen Enns’ understated Ordinary Hours. “Nothing is happening. / Rachmaninoff plays in the other room / but there is nothing here.” The poem develops a series of negatives (“no” and “not”) which paradoxically create a presence through sound and sense. “Nothing” and “something” are characteristic nouns that rhyme internally with her participles. Significantly Rachmaninoff’s music appears indirectly in “the other room” where something may [...]
Susan Paddon. Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths. London, ON: Brick Books, 2014.
~ Reviewed by Brenda Leifso
It cannot be easy to lose a mother, and it especially cannot be easy to watch a mother die over an extended period of time. Susan Paddon’s collection, Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths, honestly and adeptly takes us through her experience of watching her mother die from a pulmonary illness – “the wings inside her / changing like a peppered moth” at the same time it reaches to compare this death with Anton Chekov’s.
The book [...]
Dennis Cooley. abecedarium. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 2014.
~ Reviewed by Anita Dolman
An abecedarium traditionally shows off or teaches an alphabet through inscription or by highlighting the letters’ use, in alphabetical order, throughout a script. Dennis Cooley’s book is not an abecedarium in the same sense. What it is is a joyful, typically Cooleyan homage to the sounds and intricacies that are part of and stem from the English alphabet, and to the meanings to which they can lead.
Reading Cooley is like a hug welcoming one back to a different [...]
Len Gasparini. Mirror Image. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2014.
~ Reviewed by Patricia Keeney
In Mirror Image, a compact and spirited collection that includes poems, a dramatic monologue, a dramatic dialogue and a short story, Guernica has produced a portrait of veteran writer Len Gasparini that is by turns droll, lyrical, wistful and artlessly attentive to craft.
The numbered sequence called “Memories of the Rockin’ Fifties” takes us back with what feels like total recall. Poem after poem gives us suicide knobs, Elvis, short-shorts, James Dean, drive-ins, Jack Kerouac, sputnik and beatnik. Classic moments caught [...]