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Topic: 2021

Canadian Ghazals: Gold in the Shadow: Twenty-Two Ghazals and a Cento for Phyllis Webb by Diana Hayes

Diana Hayes, Toronto born, has lived on both Canadian coasts, but currently resides on the blissfully peaceful Salt Spring Island. A poet and an artist (photographer), Hayes was inspired, encouraged, and befriended by another Salt Spring Island artist, Phyllis Webb (1927-2021). Hayes wrote this collection of poems to pay tribute to a mentor, leading the viewer/reader on a journey of its own making, one that encompasses the world but has its roots on that small, compact community on an island in British Columbia’s gulf islands in the Salish Sea. The compilation of poems, Gold in the Shadow: Twenty-Two Ghazals and a Cento for Phyllis Webb, is a journey through friendship, time, place, and the overall mosaic of what it means to be Canadian.

Dreams and Translations: Selected Poems 1983-2020 by Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton has published six poetry collections to date and, as he notes in his preface to this selection (from all six, plus fifteen new poems), two of his principal sources of inspiration are dreams and translations. The dreams are “usually in the form of lines overheard, so to speak, in sleep and translated into writing,” while the translations are not simply of other poems in other languages but free expressions of the spirit and character of their sources, modern and ancient, “renowned and obscure.” In his virtuosic debut collection, the Gerald Lampert Award-winning Stalin’s Carnival, which begins with poems about beauty and the body, he builds a powerful centre with translations and meditations spun out of early poems by a young man who later morphs into the sinister Josef Stalin, and then concludes with poems of entropy and decay. His early lyrics express tension, effort, and physical testing, as in “Restless,” where the speaker finds temporary rest, not on banks of the sea, but only after climbing a cliff, only to awake restless again. And a reader encounters an abundance of free translations and what Heighton calls mistranslations in subsequent collections, such as The Address Book and The Waiting Comes Late, with references and ekphrases generated by the likes of Sappho, Georg Trakl, Rimbaud, Paul Celan, Osip Mandelstam, Konstatin Kavafi, Catullus, Homer, etc. In Heighton’s case, the ekphrases double their value by being more than homages or approximations; they have a deft functional role in the totality of each book, as they play with the metaphoric energy of translation as metamorphosis, as in “Endurance” (Stalin’s Carnival) that pictorializes a female swimmer’s dynamic motion, and in “High Jump,” which highlights the poet’s clever way with transforming metaphor, as its pole-vaulter suggests images of dolphin, diver, and gull.

“From where does memory come?”: The Milk of Amnesia by Danielle Janess

Danielle Janess’s debut poetry collection is a richly layered exploration into dark reaches of family history and inter-generational repercussions, largely from the perspective of a WOMAN searching for clues about her Polish GRANDFATHER while she and her CHILD are living in post-Wall Berlin. Yes, the upper case is intentional: a “cast list,” tellingly labelled “Displaced Persons” rather than “Dramatis Personae,” appears at the front of the book, and the characters’ titles are capitalized in a number of the poems.