Posts: Reviews »
Tom Marshall. The Essential Tom Marshall. Selected by David Helwig and Michael Ondaatje. Erin Village, ON: Porcupine’s Quill, 2012.
~Reviewed by Andrew Johnson
Too often, our understanding of our literary history gets mixed up in debates about the canon, about who was great and who was merely good. In the process, we risk overlooking the fact that the greats didn’t spring out of nowhere; they needed literary friends, drinking buddies, sympathetic publishers, rivals, lovers…. They needed writers like Tom Marshall (1938–1993), the poet, novelist (Adele at the End of the Day), and [...]
Don Domanski. Bite Down Little Whisper. Brick Books: London, Ontario, 2013.
~Reviewed by Patricia Keeney
Effortlessly linking opposites, the poems in Don Domanski’s Bite Down Little Whisper share rare secrets of a larger existence that is usually blocked out by the diurnal noise and distraction through which most of us fret and hurry. Quietude lets the marvels in: “Quietude is called returning to life Lau Tze says” in “Ars Magica.”
Throughout this book, Domanski converses easily with haiku masters and other figures from ancient culture, all mavens of the intimately universal moment. He [...]
Anne Michaels. Correspondences. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2013.
~Reviewed by Emily McGiffin
With its plain and elegant construction that evades the orientating features of title, spine, back copy, Correspondences, Anne Michaels’ beautifully unconventional book-length poem, invites the reader into a pleated Möbius strip. “Forgive me, for beginning / at the end,” she writes in the midst of a poignant and evocative elegy whose very form echoes the continuous cycle of birth, life, and mourning.
The book-with-a-twist comes enveloped in a handsome grey sleeve. Sliding it off, one enters a realm of poetic text [...]
John Barton. For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin: Selected Poems. Gibsons, BC: Nightwood Editions, 2012.
~ Reviewed by JM Francheteau
With nine previous trade collections and a number of significant awards in his rear-view, John Barton is well within selected-poems territory. But as perhaps the first career retrospective by a Canadian openly gay male poet, For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin also charts the broad strokes of a 30-year sea change. In a recent discussion of emerging queer writer Ben Ladouceur, Barton notes that in his [...]
Barry Dempster. Invisible Dogs. London, ON: Brick Books, 2013.
~Reviewed by JM Francheteau
In “The Gulls,” the opening poem of Barry Dempster’s 2010 collection Blue Wherever, the protagonist’s idyllic musings are interrupted by the blast of a gull’s ragged caw, the sudden sense that nature
hates you without regard to good intentions
or poetic haze, whatever you call
yourself at your most vague
demanding to be left alone
with its hunger and duty.
It’s the type of jolt many of the economically comfortable, existentially discomfited speakers in Dempster’s new book Invisible Dogs could sorely use. Despite the persistent use [...]
Tanis Rideout. Arguments with the Lake. Hamilton, ON: Wolsak & Wynn, 2013.
~Reviewed by Nico Mara-McKay
Toronto-based writer Tanis Rideout’s acclaimed novel, Above All Things (McClelland and Stewart, 2012), was an account of George Mallory’s third and final attempt to conquer Mount Everest in 1924, and the wife he left behind, Ruth. The poems in Arguments with the Lake are likewise concerned with feats of strength and endurance, and the determination of real people. This time Rideout has compiled a fictionalized account of the rivalry between Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell. In [...]
Maleea Acker. Air-Proof Green. St. John’s, NL: Pedlar Press, 2013.
~Reviewed by Al Rempel
The individual sections in Maleea Acker’s second book of poetry, Air-Proof Green, act like an optometrist’s refractor, the lenses slotting into place, one after another, the calm voice, the birds outside. Can you see better now? How about now? Acker’s poetry is all about perception, about seeing better, about being still enough to see. In her poem, “Work,” the poet declares “Your task / is to notice everything, relaxation is the best method. / Forget, look down, there’s [...]
Jeffery Donaldson. Slack Action. Erin, Ontario: Porcupine’s Quill, 2013.
~Reviewed by Jim Johnstone
An adept metaphor for the way poems engage in conversation within the canon, ‘slack action’ is a railroad term that describes the interplay between train cars, where free movement transmits from one linked car to another. It’s the ideal title for Jeffery Donaldson’s fifth book of poems, which marks a departure from the tightly wound dramatic monologues of his earlier collections, and instead is dominated by semantic diversity and a sense of play. This is particularly apparent in “Toy [...]
Al Rempel. This Isn’t the Apocalypse We Hoped For. Halfmoon Bay, BC: Caitlin Press, 2013.
~Reviewed by Harold Rhenisch
Rempel’s playful title is well chosen. Is he living in an apocalypse somehow different from one hoped for? Is it a disappointing apocalypse? Is he not living in an apocalypse at all? Does he miss it? Whatever it is, “fat bees hover above satellite dishes purple in colour,” as he writes in the title poem, and his pockets are stuffed with “blister packs of synthetic gum.” This is not quite like Eliot’s universe—the [...]
Pamela Porter. Late Moon. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2013
~Reviewed by Barbara Myers
“I didn’t know which I’d find— / the father watching at the window / or the one in hiding / behind the mountain” writes Pamela Porter in “The River Asked Me”, an early poem in this unusually lengthy book (121 pages). The collection spins around an unknown but richly imagined birth father, with the occasional appearance of a protective “adoptive father.” With no proof of who her biological father was, Porter focuses the richly imagined scenes and re-creations that make [...]