Like the book’s title, the poems of Adèle Barclay’s Renaissance Normcore move swiftly from unassuming to tightly coiled and somewhat provocative. “You Don’t Have to Choose But You Do” follows fast from epigraphs by Jenny Lewis and Fiona Apple and into the more traditionally literary, creating a Facebook Messenger conversation between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. The deft maneuvering is, by the end of the poem’s twenty-two lines, made comprehensible in the framework of an inequitable exchange: “I read their letters / and imagine them both on Facebook Messenger— / all the dick pics he’d send; her, chatting up / several men at once and never recycling material.”
Arc Poetry Magazine is overjoyed to be working with writer and critic Adèle Barclay. Our 2018 – 2019 Poet-in-Residence Adèle’s has had writing appear in The Fiddlehead, The Puritan, PRISM, Heavy Feather Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2016 Lit POP Award for Poetry and the 2016 Walrus Readers’ Choice Award for Poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut poetry collection, If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You (Nightwood, 2016), won the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award. She was Canadian Women in Literary Arts’ Critic is Residence and is currently an editor at Rahila’s Ghost Press. Adèle is Arc‘s tenth Poet-in-Residence, following Robyn Sarah, Di Brandt, and David O’Meara.
“Family is a crawlspace,” says the speaker of the poem “Debtless,” “storing waterlogged paperbacks, / a cheap bottle of brandy in a filing cabinet” (86). These lines—metaphorically rich and balanced with detail and ambiguity—are representative of Adèle Barclay’s assured debut, If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You. There is suggestive power with “crawlspace;” a crawlspace is a dark space—what does that darkness portend? “Paperbacks” hint at family stories, but check out that adjective, “waterlogged.” The word contributes to a captivating rhythm, in which the “-logged” part functions sonically like a gulp by forcing a slight pause before moving on. Things do not become waterlogged on their own—waterlogging occurs by accident or natural disaster. These connotations arise in part from following the “show, don’t tell” maxim; they brilliantly suggest a narrative not constricted by telling, but also one that goes beyond showing, allowing room for a reader’s own experiences. Although the occasional poem feels a bit too much like a jumble of images and ideas, again and again, Barclay is able to find the right words and put them in the right order.