menu Arc Poetry Magazine

Topic: 2021

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

Kelsey Andrews’s 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.

Grief Like Water: Rayya Liebich’s Min Hayati

In Min Hayati, Rayya Liebich honours her mother’s life and death, recalling her own experience of both. Most compellingly, she writes about what it is like to keep living after the death of such an influential and well-loved figure in her life, using an approach that explores grief with honesty and openness.

The (Dis)Placement of the Self: Roxanna Bennett’s The Untranslatable I

It’s been just over a year since I recovered from my last flare up—when I last spent the night in the emergency department, visiting nearby nurses offices, responding over the phone with my fluids in and out in ounces. It was also around this time that my review of Roxanna Bennett’s previous collection was published. And seeing my thoughts alongside their poetry—particularly at a time where I felt so unheard—I began to recognize that the more I experience pain, the more I gain access to new sets of meanings that are otherwise inaccessible.

Poetry as a Method of Divination: Tolu Oloruntoba’s The Junta of Happenstance

In the Junta of Happenstance, Tolu Oloruntoba uses a “safecracker ear” (“Child at Sleep”) to perceive both the subtle and overt mechanics of human interactions and to explore the interlocking parts of past and present, individual and community, and the here and there.

Life in Letters in the Garden: M.A.C. Farrant’s one good thing: a living memoir

Born in 1947, M.A.C. Farrant is an icon of realistic and often humourist writing who lives in North Saanich, British Columbia. She is a versatile author who writes fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, book reviews and essays, and has won numerous awards. Now, taking a classic art form—letter writing—Farrant has compiled a poetry collection of sixty-four letters that she has intentionally addressed to Victoria Times Colonist’s garden columnist Helen Chestnut. Each letter addresses a specific column, a gardening topic, and then morphs into a discussion of Zen-like simplicity of life issues that include current events and personal memories long past. The theme, quite cleverly portrayed, is that life is a garden of pests, blight, beauty, tragedy and so much more.

No yard lights for miles, like an eye put out: Sheri Benning’s Field Requiem

Sheri Benning grew up on a farm in central Saskatchewan. During her lifetime, agriculture on the prairies shifted from farms like her family’s 160 acres to ones measured in thousands of acres and cultivated by industrial methods. This powerful book, written with intelligence, love and artistry, is a requiem for a lost landscape, way of life, and community, as well as lost individuals—family, friends, and community members. It is also a heartfelt critique of exploitative techniques that destroy so much in bringing abundance to market.

Luminous with Love: Blaine Marchand’s Becoming History: A Life Told Through Poetry

Blaine Marchand has produced a loving elegiac memorial to his mother who lived for over a century (1913-2016). Kathleen Dorothy, a childhood victim of diphtheria (“the strangling angel”), claimed to have had “a long and lucky” life, though she and a younger brother, Robert, were placed in an Ottawa orphanage after her parents separated and their mother had fled to Montreal. “Adopted” by the Irishes (who had seven children of their own), she learned etiquette, enunciation, and deportment before she graduated in 1931 from Rideau Street Convent, eventually marrying and starting her own large brood. This three-part story is one of perseverance and love: the first (covering 29 years) being Kathleen’s point of view as projected through the poet; the second (spanning the next 12 years) being the poet’s lyrical remembrances; and the third (the mother’s final three years, darkened by old age and the spectre of death) serving as a moving document of last days, where time and memory also reach a point of exhaustion with the dying mother.