Posts: Reviews »
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 [...]
Shoshanna Wingate. Radio Weather. Signal Editions, 2014.
~Reviewed by Emily Davidson
Shoshanna Wingate’s Radio Weather opens with an ice storm. Ignoring discussions of climate change, callers to a local radio show recount “jumping out / of windows when the doors were blocked with snow,” reflections of past weather disrupting the squall of the moment. After all, claims Wingate’s speaker, “Weather serves up memory / better than any book.”
In her debut collection, the establishing editor of Newfoundland’s Riddle Fence tips her hand early. These are memory poems, pieces concerned with what happened, what didn’t, [...]
Ella Zeltserman. Small things left behind. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2014
~reviewed by Barbara Myers
It’s been more than thirty years and Ella Zeltserman is still homesick for many small things – like bouquets of tiny forest flowers sold by babushkas in the market, and an old coat lost and forgotten that she guessed “like Gogol’s, went for a stroll/along noisy Nevsky” visiting well-remembered sights and shops (“coat”). The book’s title is both ironic and exact – it was hardly a small thing for a young couple to escape with their [...]
Ed. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jonathan Ball. Why Poetry Sucks: An Anthology of Humorous Experimental Canadian Poetry. Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2014.
~reviewed by rob mclennan
Winnipeg poet and filmmaker Jonathan Ball and Vancouver poet Ryan Fitzpatrick’s new anthology, Why Poetry Sucks: An Anthology of Humorous Experimental Canadian Poetry, was built to respond against the idea that poetry can’t be taken seriously if it is funny. At nearly three hundred pages of work by forty-three contributors, it provides an essential counterpoint to so much of the “serious work” of Canadian writing, constructed out of [...]
Garth Martens. Prologue to the Age of Consequence. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2014.
~ Reviewed by Zachariah Wells
As a reader for CBC’s 2011 poetry competition, I judged 286 anonymous entries. My second– and third-highest picks were, it turned out, sequences submitted by Garth Martens, both of which appear in his GG-shortlisted 2014 debut. The work stood out, both because of subject matter (commercial construction and the toxically masculine culture of the job-site) and because of Martens’ style: densely percussive, displaying a range of registers and a fiction-writer’s penchant for voice, [...]
Kayla Czaga. For Your Safety Please Hold On. Gibson, BC: Nightwood Editions, 2014.
~Reviewed by Phoebe Wang
There are archetypal elements to Czaga’s poems about family, though they are caught up in particular circumstances: her mother’s illness, her father’s relocation from Hungary, her childhood in a remote northern B.C. town. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins become our own catalogue of typical specimens, even though there may be nothing stereotypical about them. Czaga’s debut focuses on how these relationships recur, setting up patterns for our later lives. In “Biography of My Father,” [...]
Andrea MacPherson. Ellipses. Winnipeg: Signature Editions, 2014
~ Reviewed by Carole Mertz
Andrea MacPherson divides Ellipses, her collection of free verse and prose poems, into four sections. The first two are dedicated to her grandmothers. The poems are reinventions of these women, rather than actual recollections. However, the reader gains clear profiles: the maternal grandmother who practiced elocution as a young adult, spoke with a brogue and read tea leaves, and the paternal grandmother who, nearly orphaned, dwelled in a tuberculosis sanatorium and survived to raise three sons.
In “Saskatoon Sanatorium, 1940,” the poet [...]
Brian Bartlett. Ringing Here and There. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014
~ Reviewed by Barbara Myers
Corresponding to the astrological calendar, Ringing Here and There begins in spring with April (perhaps from aperire, the Latin “to open” as in buds, as in beginnings) and continues with the satisfactions of phenology, charting the changes in plants and wildlife as season follows season. Subtitled “A Nature Calendar,” and inspired by Thoreau and other diarists, poet Brian Bartlett’s new prose offering of 366 entries (including one for the extra day in a leap year) [...]
Sarah Lang. For Tamara. Toronto: House of Anansi, 2014.
~ Reviewed by Emily McGiffin
In the decade following the end of the world, a mother writes a letter to her daughter. An event has occurred—a bright flash, a mushroom cloud—and the world we know has become a poignant memory. In this arduous and dangerous new existence, life is precarious and the letter is urgent, wistful, keenly human. In a long poem that takes its place in a growing corpus of post-apocalyptic literature, Lang asks who we might become at the moment of [...]