Concerned with the disease of modern life, Nikki Reimer’s poetry collection, My Heart Is a Rose Manhattan, thinks honestly about the different ways we experience connection, grief, and womanhood in the urban centers of today.
In particular, Reimer explores how city life can skew our relationships to our world and to each other. Whether she’s contemplating how “every minute in the shower kills another acre of ocean” or musing about a “cold-pressed coffee farm,” Reimer demonstrates that she’s doing her best to keep her finger on the pulse of Canada’s urban reality.
Between conveying Alberta’s anxieties surrounding the future of the oil industry and examining northwestern British Columbia’s eclectic spirit, the poet’s unfiltered takes on the nation are grounded in the ethos of each province–that is, both the outward reputation they curate and the culture they maintain on the ground.
The poet also speaks directly to the toxicity of social media and Internet culture throughout the collection. While she admits that she’ll “go blind” before she deletes her Facebook account, she can’t help but poke fun at the very culture that makes the Internet go round with the poem “Ask yourself: what does the culture WANT.” Likewise, in “27,000 graham crackers,” she concludes that to become internet famous is to accept “visibility as violence.”
At times, the poet speaks directly to the modern woman. In “public intellectuals,” she reviews all of the nonsensical postures, behaviours, and facial expressions women adopt to remain safe while navigating city streets—whether it’s remembering to “constantly scan but don’t be obvious” or walking with “intelligent posture.”
With her piece “Trigger warning,” Reimer reviews just how callous the city can be towards women. The poem features four voices swapping stories of sexual misconduct and in turn interjecting the rumours, excuses, and sympathies for the perpetrator that consequently surface all too often in such situations. The narrative is damning in its indictment of how communities address sexual assault, and it offers a careful reminder that rape culture is alive and well—even in our own circles.
At the same time, Reimer’s sharp wit and casual authenticity imbue the collection with levity. With poems like “Twenty-three totally free Canadian indie band names / first album title combos for the taking! Book festivals! Impress your friends! Support your country!” (which features such stellar suggestions as “Ossington Ave. Basement Ste. – Gentrification Situation”), and “Rules for better living,” where she ranks “CAN YOU LEGITIMATELY NOT PUT THE EMPTY ALMOND MILK CONTAINER BACK IN THE FRIDGE” at a respectable number five, the poet manages to build unexpected moments of humour into her collection by harnessing her powers of observation.
In “trying to be a person / rather than a bone frock,” Reimer has fashioned a remarkably genuine poetic voice. Between her efforts to work through her personal grief and her insistence on airing out her grievances with contemporary life, Reimer has successfully crafted a collection that paints a holistic portrait of what it takes to be a modern woman.
Amelia Eqbal is a recent graduate of Western University. She is a freelance writer based in Mississauga with a passion for theatre and a penchant for pop culture. Previous credits include Poetry London, Polemical Zine, and Semicolon.
ARC HITS THE HEART HARD.