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Topic: Al Rempel

Poems that Span the Void: the bridge from day to night David Zieroth

David Zieroth’s latest book of poetry, “the bridge from day to night,” begins with the daily observations of a poet crossing the Second Narrows Bridge on his route to and from work. Included in the first section are everyday scenes from a typical Vancouver commute―a man curled up on the sidewalk, ships passing under a bridge, a few blades of grass growing in a crack, and an unexpected run-in with an aggressive dog―but Zieroth skillfully takes these observations past their obvious conclusions and lands the reader someplace unexpected:

Catch Your Breath: Susan Telfer’s Ghost Town

Susan Telfer begins her second book of poetry, Ghost Town, with a section that includes an inspired suite of poems. With writing that slips in and out of the mythical and the surreal, we quickly learn that the narrator isn’t really writing about the ghost towns that dot the back roads of British Columbia, but instead “your family,” with its “boarded up false fronts at the back of memory.”

World Happiness Report: Lori Cayer’s Dopamine Blunder

Lori Cayer’s smart new book, Dopamine Blunder, jumps and skitters across a cornucopia of poems in order to chase down, capture, and interrogate the one elusive rascal of the North American capitalist dream: happiness. Touching on the fruits of research from quantum mechanics to sociology and everything between, she begins in “Page Not Found” with “how do you know if you’re happy / if you’re not,” and continues her quest through found and erasure poems, lyrical poems, anagrams, and poems that play and sing with syntax and punctuation. Interspersed throughout Dopamine Blunder, Cayer’s third book of poetry, are indexes and formulae of happiness and wellbeing, reminiscent of Nikki Reimer’s lists of household expenses in DOWNVERSE.

Like Gifts You Never Asked For: Sue MacLeod’s Mood Swing, with Pear

Sue MacLeod’s poems in Mood Swing, with Pear, her third book of poetry, dance down and across the page. In turns playful and deadly serious, tackling topics ranging from cancer to carrying a heavy flowerpot, MacLeod often stretches out lines and phrases to create spaces for the reader to pause and consider, to fill in and imagine, to breathe. Nine of the poems are found poems — or “compiled poems” — as she calls them in the notes, and just as many are ekphrastic in some manner, riffing off artwork, photos, or lines from literature. MacLeod writes the domestic and mundane the way painters approach scenes like a woman in a bathtub or a still life of a fruit bowl, as repeated attempts to “get it right”:

Walking Through the Darkness: Margo Wheaton’s The Unlit Path Behind the House

Margo Wheaton’s poems in The Unlit Path Behind the House are clean, rich in lived experience, and grounded in sharp observations of both the natural world and the realm of human relationships. She avoids many of the mistakes made in a first book of poetry: muddied and laboured metaphors, showboating, self-absorption, and a paucity of content. Here are just a few of the lines that caught my eye:

Hanging in the Air like a Heart Balloon: Sheryda Warrener’s Floating is Everything

We reach after our future like it’s a balloon bobbing above us, its string trailing down over our heads. In Sheryda Warrener’s second book of poetry, Floating is Everything, permanence, mortality and the art of living is looked at through the lens of party balloons, art installations, family memories and space travel. By the end of the book, I was entranced. Warrener’s long and luxurious phrases begin to sing, whether in the stately voice of Soviet cosmonaut Valerie Polyakov, or in the casual, free flowing “Letter to Mel from East Van,” a remarkable poem that ends:

A Vision to Rebuild: Maleea Acker’s Air-Proof Green

The individual sections in Maleea Acker’s second book of poetry, Air-Proof Green, act like an optometrist’s refractor, the lenses slotting into place, one after another, the calm voice, the birds outside. Can you see better now? How about now? Acker’s poetry is all about perception, about seeing better, about being still enough to see. In […]

Laughing Towards Apocalypse: Al Rempel’s This Isn’t the Apocalypse We Hoped For

Rempel’s playful title is well chosen. Is he living in an apocalypse somehow different from one hoped for? Is it a disappointing apocalypse? Is he not living in an apocalypse at all? Does he miss it? Whatever it is, “fat bees hover above satellite dishes purple in colour,” as he writes in the title poem, […]

Gaps and Gravity: Daniela Elza’s milk tooth bane bone

Daniela Elza finds voice in both the gaps and the gravity of language in her second book, milk tooth bane bone, an interconnected series of poems that begins with this startling image: The four titular nouns typify what I mean by gravity and gaps. Elza places these words side by side as effortlessly as setting […]