Ewan Whyte’s first volume of poetry, Entrainment, demonstrates masterful craftsmanship and maturity. It contains 28 poems, some of which span a couple of lines (“Graffiti for the Palatine”) while others run for as long as four pages (“Guiraut Riquier: The Last Troubadour”). The collection as a whole is tightly knit, yet without a systematic philosophy. Itʼs poetry for the sake of poetry, or so it seems at first glance. Though well planned and meticulously chiselled, it rolls along like a train to nowhere.
Of the 58 poems contained in this collection, an astonishing 43 have seen previous publication in a wide variety of journals in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia and Ireland. This speaks to the excellence of Crymble’s work and it is gratifying to have those poems, and more, gathered here by an important Irish press. Crymble, who was born in Belfast, came to Canada with his parents at age 11, having also lived in Zambia for 2 years. Since 2010, he has lived in Fredericton, where he studies and teaches at the University of New Brunswick. Such biographical detail is mentioned only because the notion of “home” plays such a significant role in Not Even Laughter. Is home where one was born, or is it where one now chooses to live? For the author, the pull of memory and nostalgia contributes to a fluidity that allows him, often through sensory associations, to slip between each world, or even occupy both at once.
What a breath of fresh air to find wit and joy working as wholehearted partners when they are too often posed as adversaries in our day-to-day culture. Instead, here, language is rigorously (and almost completely) cleared of pretense: spoken plainly, but sort of in the way that moonlight is sunlight: of course it actually is, and of course it actually isn’t. For instance, “In the Kitchen:”
The last entry in Andy Weaver’s latest book is:
Many of you have likely heard of Cheryl Strayed, author of the hugely successful breakout memoir Wild. What you may not know is that she was also Sugar behind the column Dear Sugar on The Rumpus, and is also currently one of the Sugars on the podcast Dear Sugar, which offers advice and “radical empathy” to the “lost, lonely, and heartsick.” The Sugars often turn to writers to help address the problems letter writers bring forward, like figuring out whether to stay or to go, the boredom of motherhood, addictions, discussing faith and politics with family members, and dealing with infidelity. Rachel Rose’s 2015 collection Marry & Burn, which won the 2016 Pushcart prize, and was shortlisted for the 2016 Pat Lowther Memorial Award, would be just such a book to turn to.
The Xenotext Book 1 is the most substantial installment to date in Christian Bök’s ongoing Xenotext project. Very few books of poetry have been so widely anticipated in the press or so eagerly discussed by their author during composition. More difficult to understand and more difficult to enjoy than Bök’s Eunoia, The Xenotext Book 1 is nonetheless a spectacular read, and will not disappoint confirmed fans of the writer that Steven W. Beattie called “the mad scientist of Canadian poetry.”
Exquisite Monsters, K. I. Press’ fourth poetry collection, muses on birth, parenthood, depression and suburban life. Ostensibly described as pop-culture-meets parenting, Press’ pop references are the side dishes as often as they are the main course.
For readers unfamiliar with haibun (phonetically pronounced “hi-boon”), it’s a form of poetry that pairs prose and haiku created by the famous Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō over 300 years ago. Terry Ann Carter’s well-informed history of writing and teaching various Japanese forms of poetry is evident in On the Road to Naropa; it is beautifully written and balanced within the constraints of haibun but also very accessible.
“You make love / like a horse on the Parthenon. / Fuck you / And the you you rode in on.”
Early on in The Relativistic Empire, Samuel Andreyev’s second collection, he asks “when did things / begin to lose their cohesion?” a question that could serve as a motto for the book as a whole. Actually to talk of this book ‘as a whole’ is rather irrational, as the only facts that make it complete are its finite number of pages and its two covers; it lacks even a table of contents, giving the impression of a free-form group of poems placed together at random. The poems themselves are (mostly) short, and generally feature a kind of deliberate nonsensicality. A typical example reads, “a thin layer of ice / protects the tongs only / to grasp an elusive concept // flown into paradise with- / -out removal colliding /jeeps stuck in mud,” the sort of language sequencing designed to stymie meaning.