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Topic: Poetry

Plant Food

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Unjustly ignored: Hine’s Recollected

“Criticism,” writes Helen Vendler, is “the revenge of the student who once, perforce, sat silent while things that seemed untrue were said unrebuked, and poets who loomed large in the mind were ignored in the classroom.” So many untrue things have been said for so many years about Canadian poetry, and not just in classrooms, that it is hard to know where to begin to take one’s revenge, if that is the right word. But fortunately the recent publication of Daryl Hine’s _Recollected Poems: 1951-2004_ gives us a chance to reassess our most unjustly ignored poet, and to fill in–or begin to fill in–one of the most forlorn and gaping holes in our literary history. …

On Adam Getty’s “Yellow Grass”

Experiencing “for the first time” a sense of dislocation, the speaker of Adam Getty’s “Yellow Grass” promises a new understanding of his place in the world. And he delivers on this promise by envisioning another person and admiring the dynamism of that person’s imagination. Sustaining his initial “wonder” in the surrounding countryside by wondering who might know it intimately, the speaker conjures a person so familiar with the field that he has “named each one of these blades” and identified every “kink” in the grass…

On Dave Margoshes’ “Latimer’s Statement to the Police”

Writing poems based on journalistic reportage is perilous at the best of times. The poems risk becoming too freighted with the politics or moral implications of the event itself. Yet no poet, or poetic novelist, with blood in their veins can steer clear of the stranger-than-fiction events that fill the newspapers and airwaves. Regina poet and novelist Dave Margoshes takes on both the unspeakable and the ineffable in this poem about Robert Latimer’s decision to kill of his severely disabled daughter Tracy. The poem was written several years after the actual murder took place, but while news of the trial and its controversial verdict were very much in the public eye…

On Alfred G. Bailey’s “Elm”

In one of the most famous pieces of poetic shlock ever penned, Joyce Kilmer muses that he “shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.” “Tree” is not merely the first syllable of treacle, however, and trees–despite poets’ best efforts to abet deforestation through publication–are almost always positive emblems when they appear in a poem–even while forests are often dark and terrible zones.
A.G. Bailey seems to suggest that if all Kilmer and others can see is arboreal loveliness, then they probably can’t see the forest for the trees. “Look well,” this poet says, and he means it. Bailey inverts the old chestnut about the innocent beauty of trees by the bold device of comparing the elm’s “wittol” (witless; also, a knowing but tolerant cuckold) root to a rat–a neat consonantal rhyme–a trick which has the dual effect of making us question our usual assumptions about trees and of exonerating, or at least complicating, the voracious lusts and appetites of the oft-benighted rodent.

Pugnax Gives Notice

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Line 30 (collage)

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