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Topic: 2021

Healing in the Modernist Multiverse : Triny Finlay’s Myself a Paperclip

How do you incorporate the essence of your poetic forebears to heighten a new work without intruding on contemporary narratives? This question is answered eloquently in Triny Finlay’s new collection of poems, Myself a Paperclip. Finlay captures the stigma of mental illness and its treatment in her own words with the support of allusions that provide the reader other texts that fill out the psychological grounding/tradition of the narrator.

KIRBY FULL-ON: Kirby’s Poetry is Queer

Born in Toledo, Ohio to Lutheran parents who only gradually came to accept their queer identity after fearing they would be lost to them if they didn’t, Kirby is an amiable, proudly self-identifying queer writer who founded Knife Fork Book (KFB), an all-poetry bookstore, in Toronto in 2016 to overcome the commercial disregard of poets and poetry. Described by Gerald Hannon as “a cross between Jean Genet and a buddha on uppers”, Kirby has compiled a book of mini-essays as an impassioned manifesto that combines diaristic anecdote, vignette, epigram, list, and literary reflection. The book’s cover showing buttons arranged like a penis in outline presages its bold content. Facing the title page is a shot of Kirby photographing what seems to be Keith Haring’s washroom graffiti.

Footnotes of Grief: Diane Hope Tegenkamp’s Girl running

Diana Hope Tegenkamp’s debut poetry collection, Girl running from Thistledown Press (2021), invites the reader to experience the dream as a lens, an idea, and a word for a complete state: across parts of speech, verb, noun, and adjective. Personal and political, the poems are thematically interwoven with intimacy, family, and history. The poems also explore grief, where the past and present meet and extend across the speaker’s waking and unconscious minds, as “[s]mall gestures from dreams / materialize in the day (untitled epigraph).” The reader finds poems traversing this gradient of consciousness.

Territory and Topology: Nduka Otiono’s DisPlace: The Poetry of Nduka Otiono

As a former editor for an online journal and as a reviewer, I have to start by saying that some of the best creative writing of the Corona years has been produced by Nigerian writers, so I am proud and honoured to discuss Nduka Otiono’s collected works here, specifically as they relate to the themes of territory and topology.

“my feet hurt, as if I’d walked for years toward this quiet wind”: Adele Graf’s buckled into the sky

The title of this ample book beckons the reader to prepare for takeoff. Good advice. The poems here fly you to Latvia, Crete, California, New York City, Newfoundland and more, and lead you to family joys and sorrows, moments of private repose, and places of dreams and imaginings. It is a true collection, personal poems gathered from a wide range of inspirations and using a wide variety of forms.

Flashes of Literary Gold: David O’Meara’s Masses on Radar

In David O’Meara’s collection of poetry, Masses on Radar, every poem contains flashes of literary gold; not the gold of glitter but real literate gold, words in combinations never before seen but that shine with brilliance once revealed. By the way, the word “Masses” in the title does not refer to anything religious, but instead refers to the blurred images of our everyday reality that appear on the poet’s radar.

The Earthen Parts of Pain and Joy: Kelsey Andrews’ Big Sky Falling

Kelsey Andrews’ debut collection is grounded in the body, in the mind, and in nature, whether the landscape is prairie, West Coast, or the B.C. interior. The poems also move through a grittier cityscape that mirrors interior struggles. Crows lead a speaker “along twisting paths” (“Not Much”). Navigating this labyrinth involves elements of both joy and pain.

Earth-shattering nuances: Matsuki Masutani’s I will be more myself in the next world

I will be more myself in the next world is a collection of poems that are large by being small, diligently attending to the minutiae of domestic life and relationships with family and with the self. Dividing his book into seven sections, Masutani includes translations into his native Japanese for three of them, though he writes poetry in English after a suggestion from the poet and visual artist Roy Kiyooka (“Acknowledgements”). The structure of his book also takes guidance from Kiyooka, as each individual poem unfolds into the next as part of a longer thematic sequence, similar to Kiyooka’s serial style of poetry. Masutani is far from alone in claiming influence from Kiyooka, whose poetic works dating back to the 1960s serve in some ways as a precursor to a wider movement of Asian Canadian literature that began to flourish in the 1970s. It is a movement that Masutani has also been a contributor to, translating important works by Japanese Canadian authors such as Kiyooka and Hiromi Goto into their heritage language.

The Green Fuse of Life UnDenied: Rhonda Batchelor’s Allow Me: Poems 2000-2020

Allow Me offers an eye for detail that opens quiet moments of solitude for the reader and gives unexpected appreciation for a particular fire on a cold winter day: “There must be resin in this log / to make it blaze like a saint” (“Fire”).

Mapping Out a Life: Beth Kope’s Atlas of Roots

Beth Kope’s Atlas of Roots is a collection of poems that will make readers consider their own “origin story” about how they came to be who they are now. Hers is a poetry that asks questions to find answers, with the voice of the poet trying to decipher who she was—and is—as an adopted child. Unique in its scope, Atlas of Roots maps out a life, from childhood to adulthood, as Kope searches for her own history.