Alexandra Oliver’s deeply conventional poems in Let the Empire Down report on social arrangements: family, home, neighbourhoods, work, and fitting (comfortably or otherwise) into those environments. The mode is formal, and subjects, for the most part, mundane—reading to schoolchildren, having a manicure, taking a bus or train, receiving medical test results – except for the ten poems of the book’s closing sequence, “Movies,” which recount and reframe a handful of movies by Fellini and others.
Consistent with the spirit of its title, Peter Norman’s third collection of poetry unfolds with a bang. The creatures and objects of the world are on the move, in constant gleeful rebellion against humanity. Behind ordinary societal processes, triumphs and tragedies, raccoons snuffle, crows forage, maggots writhe, Mole Men squirm, and even human teeth turn against the nails and knuckles of their owners with ravenous resolve. On top of this, the dead and the inanimate are fighting back; in “Parked Truck, Moosomin SK” the wiper blades and windscreen of the eponymous vehicle have fallen to an explosion of insect carnage described in vivid, cinematic detail. In “Demolition”, the destroyed shingles and beams reshuffle themselves into their rightful places, as if to give the finger to their wrecking crew overlords.