Deborah-Anne Tunney’s A Different Wolf pulls an audacious trick: analyzing Alfred Hitchcock’s films. This device’s inherent problem, though, is that film tends to outwardly describe characters’ journeys while writing often inwardly describes them. Tunney excels doing a bit of both, but in imbuing observations with the personal, she viscerally pulls in readers.
Pearl Pirie’s latest collection, footlights, shows us that poetic subjects are all around, and Pirie invites us to pause and drink them in.
Locked in Different Alphabets is Doris Fiszer’s first full-length collection of poetry, building on themes first developed in The Binders (Tree Press, 2016) and Sasanka (Wild Flower) (Bywords Publishing, 2018). The collection is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different departed member of the author’s family. The first, “My Brother George,” recalls often-painful childhood memories of her brother’s bullying, before abruptly moving far forward, when George has lost much of his life to ALS. The section experiments with almost onomatopoeic line and word breaks, the use of space and spacing adding movement and levity to uncomfortably serious confessional pieces:
The poems of rushes from the river disappointment by stephanie roberts do indeed come at us as a rush. In “i never tire of the moon,” one of my favourite poems from the book, the speaker says, “thankfully, we share the same sky if little else.” I am thankful too. These are poems to share: they are at times playful, bleak, flirtatious, despairing and always attentive.
Douglas Burnet Smith is one of our best poets, with collections of deftly created lyrics (especially in Ladders to the Moon and Learning to Count) and a stunning anti-war long work, The Killed. His new book is an anti-war narrative sequence, set in 1915 during World War I, that swirls around the execution of teenaged Private Herbert Burden on a charge of desertion. Narrated by very young Canadian soldier, Lance Corporal Reginald Smith (the poet’s distant relative), the story intertwines Smith with the tragic fate of Burden, one of hundreds so executed.
David Ly’s debut collection Mythical Man is a sincere and honest book that communicates the feeling of ache, in both desire for others’ bodies and desire for self-knowledge and self-transcendence.
Jessi MacEachern’s A Number of Stunning Attacks is an encounter of flesh and its edges where, in “The Moat Around Her Home,” “velvet lipstick lines the demarcation,” and “all is slick with love or mimicry.” There’s so much here about the private space of relation, where subjects are entered, opened wide, probed for sex or violence, “mindful to forget.” (“Orwomen”)
Dominik Parisien’s debut poetry collection, Side Effects May Include Strangers, begins by shaving away at the artifice of language, attempting to build a bridge atop the unbreachable chasm between intent and extent. Parisien’s plight for conveyance and understanding begins by unravelling the mythology of the human body into fundamentally problematic ideological patterns that are discriminatory towards physical and mental disability. In the very opening poem, “Let Us For A Moment Call This Pain By Other Words,” Parisien writes: “Ask, Can we for a moment make of Beauty / the measure of our pain? And I will answer”
“I await, still my great white-bear,” Chaulk begins Night Lunch, a somewhat rambling examination of self-identity while working aboard a freight-and-passenger ferry serving isolated Canadian communities. Introspective about the past, present, and future, and his Indigenous roots, Night Lunch is a vicarious trip. In this travel-limited era, it’s a great hook. Chaulk’s strongest stanzas delve past superficial workaday rapport, hinting at the mythopoetic. Chaulk seeks the same certainty of self that Thomas Wolfe described in Look Homeward, Angel about Americans being clearest about who they are while journeying.
Nancy Lee’s first full-length poetry collection, What Hurts Going Down, paints a landscape of rape culture that is both matter-of-fact and horrifying. The poems reveal this world through an array of personal recollections, second-person invocations, and third-person narrations, varyingly detached and vivid. Rape culture, or the normalizing of sexual aggression and exploitation, is a subject of visceral, if mundane, recollection: a hookup on a basement bear-skin rug (“Girl with Bear”), an encounter in “a bar by an off-ramp” (“Ms. Clairvoyant”). But it is also a sedimentation of echoing encounters that effortlessly parallel coming of age: “my childhood bed, the guest room / bed, the bed in my college dorm / and the futon in my first apartment” (“Analysis”).