Alice Major’s eleventh book of poems features a cast of bit players―oilfield workers “flush with Friday’s pay,” a coffee shop waitress who “moves like a beautiful camel,” an orange cat and a speaker who sheds “seven million flakes of skin a minute.” But easily the top-billing star of this latest collection is our “battered, tilting globe” which, despite humanity’s deepening tread, still manages to gleam like “a blue pearl on the necklace of the planets.”
Standard candles is signature Alice Major poetry, and I say that in the most favourable manner. This work focuses on and develops Major’s career-long poetic concerns: how poetry intersects with science, mathematics, the lives of humans and the cosmos.
A tall order, but one of Alice Major’s strengths is her ability to introduce an idea as sweeping as ‘science’ and distill it down to a moment, a memory, an object. No one but Major could have written this book: in a way no other poet consistently does, she grasps the edges of the universe and pulls it into a headlock.