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Topic: 2019

A Lifetime Spent Scratching: We Were Like Everyone Else by Ken Victor

Ken Victor’s We Were Like Everyone Else is his first collection of poems. “A Lifetime Spent Scratching,” the first section of the book, carries the weight of Victor’s rabbinical assertion that men generally fall short of the mark. This mark is established in his first poem, “The Discovery Of Mouths,” which is set in Eden, where satiation and communication are second nature to Adam and Eve. The couple bathe in delicious, ripe fruit, like plants basking in sunlight, and they converse using telepathy. They have not discovered their mouths because they have no need for them. Victor uses his hyperbolic version of the Genesis story to simply say that “those early days” are over and that men, in particular, need “Freud” to deal with their debased minds, and gossip to cope with unhealthy relationships, and they, of course, suffer hunger as a symptom and metaphor for their physical and spiritual malnutrition.

Memory Through a Refracted Post-colonial Gaze: Against Forgetting by Keith Garebian

“The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority.”

– Homi Bhabha , Of Mimicry and Man

Searching for Evidence of Ancestors: Following Sea by Lauren Carter

The first poem in Following Sea, Lauren Carter’s second collection of poetry, stands alone, untethered from one of the book’s five sections. Titled “Historian,” it’s set in modern day, a contrast from most of the other 49 poems inhabiting Carter’s meticulous look at family history and human migration.

I find
them: pressed
between pages, those sudden
cursive blooms

she writes in this first piece, searching for evidence of her ancestors’ lives on reels of microfiche and on the pages of worn ledgers.

This Place Does Not Forsake Itself: New Brunswick by Shane Neilson

Shane Neilson, a much-lauded poet, was shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award for New Brunswick, a technically adept homage to his home province, as well as a symphonic work that is part elegy, part meditation. Dedicated to his deceased parents, his book begins with a poem by John Donne and “Pass By,” a song by Neilson that received Honourable Mention in a regional contest. The combination is instructive, their themes of pain and loss the very ones Neilson has explored in other works. The song foreshadows the poet’s abiding love of place, a fact established not just by the content of other poems but by Neilson’s framing of the collection, where the first specimen is a prose poem incorporated within a historical timeline of New Brunswick history, and where the final poem is the conclusion of a corona sonnet sequence about forms of loss.

Simple Truths: The Dowager Empress by Adele Wiseman

Primarily known for her work as a novelist, fans of Governor General’s Award-winner Adele Wiseman may be surprised to learn of her posthumously published poetry collection, The Dowager Empress. It was rare for Wiseman to share her poetry while she was alive, but editor Elizabeth Greene writes in the book’s introduction that she felt this side of Wiseman needed to be shared, despite the risk of publishing works Wiseman may have considered unfinished.

One Man’s Embankment: Mad Long Emotion by Ben Ladouceur

Ben Ladouceur follows Otter, his Gerald Lampert Memorial Award-winning debut collection, with Mad Long Emotion. It opens with a direct address to the reader in “Property of: _________________.” The poem is a “gift like every gift,” for the giver and not the receiver. The poem is for the poet.

Poetic Tools Well Wielded: This Was the River by John Pass

This Was The River is the twentieth book published by John Pass. The collection consists of lyrics, usually not more than a page and a half, shaped mostly into couplets or tercets, for an airy, spare feel. In the collection—often within a single poem—Pass weaves his preoccupations with writing (his own and others’), family, aging, and the state of the natural world. The work’s meticulous technique reflects his deep experience.

The Voice of Water: This Is How We Disappear by Titilope Sonuga

Titilope Sonuga’s This is How we Disappear, blends the personal and political through the powerful voice with which she writes. Tackling patriarchal censorship, trauma, the female experience, the political climate of Nigeria, and the portrayal of blackness within mainstream society, Sonuga prompts the reader to think and feel the weight of every word. Most pieces come from the “I” of the speaker, or the portrayal of dialogue through speaking to a “you,” inviting the reader into the intimate reflections and corners of the speaker’s experience as the poetry critically explores dark and complex themes.

A Portrait of the Poet as Tidalectic Sound Artist: Magnetic Equator by Kaie Kellough

In Anna Reckin’s reading of the Caribbean poet Kamau Brathwaite’s notion of tidalectics, she writes that it “exhibits the performativity of sound: sound that reveals trans-oceanic relation … sound that animates sound-space and brings the living and the dead into our presence.”

A Dazzling Multi-Media Response to Our Changing Climate: River Revery by Penn Kemp

River Revery is both the name of Penn Kemp’s latest poetry collection and the name of a multimedia collaboration between Kemp, Mary McDonald and Dennis Siren. The book is a masterful companion to McDonald’s video poems and photographs and Siren’s videos, which are included in the collection through QR codes. Complemented by these other works, Kemp’s intimately observed natural interactions are topically poignant, given the climate cataclysms hovering over earth. In performance and in her book, Kemp leads the reader/viewer into an appreciation and comprehension of what we have lost and will lose through playful trickster words and alliteration.