Ever since Emily Dickinson told us to tell it slant, poets have approached truth indirectly from refracted angles of their individual talent. In her fifth book of poetry Maureen Hynes approaches the truth through undercurrents of sotto voce, where words are overheard in quiet cadences. The cover of Sotto Voce displays a beige slope with a stand of darker trees, and an empty space for Hynes’s voice and vision to shape the contours of mind and landscape. Part of Bob Hainstock’s series of Simple Forms, the cover image, like the poetry within, conceals the quiet complexity of understatement. Just as Hainstock dots his landscape with rust patterns, so Hynes touches rusty railings to “etch a pointillism” on her palm. Indeed, through pointillist undertones Hynes indirectly apprehends many truths.
The Al Purdy A-Frame Residency for writers holds a special place in my heart: my father and I were the first ones to enter the property once the Association decided to begin restoration. Vancouverite poet Rob Taylor’s latest poetry chapbook, The Green Waves, was conceived during his residency. Reading Taylor’s work has been so enjoyable because the setting overlaps his personal experience, my father’s, Purdy’s, and my own of being in Purdy’s second home, a characteristic property lined with bookshelves floor to ceiling that possesses a graceful beauty aged only by the silence and solitude of his passing.
Sarah De Leeuw’s Outside, America collects poems situated on the “outside” – whether the territory lies outside America or outside our doorstep – as well as poems set within American borders – a hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, a catamaran off the coast of Alaska while whale watching. Throughout, elegiac poems on the poet’s father are threaded with poems containing often wry ecological observations of the typical ironies we experience in the Anthropocene.
Style and tradition are fostered in Erín Moure’s newest book, whose full cover title, The Elem:ents (Nam:loz), instantly engages my Derridean sensibilities. It is a book that substantially dredges up the subjective experience and objective facts of her genealogy into a compelling synthesis of her self-identity, with a poignant focus on her father’s dementia through the lens of Derrida.
John Wall Barger’s work has always been lyrical and inventive. His latest, The Mean Game, builds on these strengths, delivering an evocative and challenging book. Perhaps a little less straightforward than his previous publications, the poems in The Mean Game perform more dramatically, more surreally, and more vividly than ever before.
Jack Spicer urges, in Admonitions, “not to search for the perfect poem but to let your way of writing of the moment go along its own paths, explore and retreat but never fully be realized (confined) within the boundaries of one poem.” For Spicer “there is really no single poem…they cannot live alone any more than we can.” In Music at the Heart of Thinking by Fred Wah, these ideas come to full life in the uncontainable verse of a long-poem.
In the “Author’s Note” that prefaces Sh:Lam (The Doctor), Joseph A. Dandurand states that his poems “tell the truth of what has happened to [his] people.” He explains, “The Kwantlen people used to number in the thousands, but 80% of our people were wiped out by smallpox and now there are only 200 of us.” He also describes how the voice of the Healer drove him to write the poems: they are the “tale of a Kwantlen man who has been given the gift of healing but also is a heroin addict living on the east side.”
“I walk in the world to love it,” asserted Mary Oliver, who asserted a connection between soul and landscape. Her words serve as an appropriate prologue to Lorna Crozier’s new collection, which is an inspired coupling of her poetry and full-colour photography from Peter Coffman and Diane Laundy. Crozier is not as dewy-eyed as Oliver was about nature, nor is she as elliptical as Louise Glück, who also has a major reputation as a nature poet. In fact, Crozier may be Canada’s answer to Jane Hirshfield, who, like Crozier, is possessed of delicate reversals and apertures of wisdom.
Few are the poets who succeed in changing our perception of reality with their pansophy. Marc Di Saverio is one such poet. In his epic Crito di Volta, he has penned a work of unparalleled intellectual depth and poetic intensity, spanning the gamut of literature, philosophy, theology and science. Praised for its authentic poetic voice, Crito di Volta defies tradition, all the while encompassing it.
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.