How to Draw a Rhinoceros, the debut poetry collection from short fiction writer Kate Sutherland, is a detailed survey of a disappearing giant. Borrowing lines from paintings, scientific texts, newspapers, and handbills, Sutherland sketches out her object: the rhinoceros, pachyderm of legend, prize of carnivals and trophy cases. In a marriage of found texts and wry fancies, How to Draw a Rhinoceros assembles an interrupted past to illuminate an imperiled present.
The prevailing atmosphere of Sandra Ridley’s fourth collection Silvija is one of smothering gloom. Comprising four longish movements broken by a series of short refrains, the poems vary somewhat in terms of style and address, but their subject matter returns obsessively to sites of old trauma. Certain recurring motifs (abuse, the death of a child, the woods) flicker past again and again, just out of focus, as if glimpsed through dark water. Because these details are left obscure, it’s natural to wonder if, say, the dead child in the opening poem is the same as the figure buried in the last, or if the images simply rhyme in grief. The fact is, sifting the text for clues is the wrong way to go about it, no matter how the intimacies of its internal conversations might seem to beckon you. Ridley is too controlled and perhaps too cautious a writer to leave in some overlooked key for decrypting the work. Per the publisher’s blurb, the collection “is a linguistic embodiment of psychological suffering, physical abuse, and terminal illness,” which sounds about right. The cumulative effect is abstract, suggestive, like a classical dirge or the drowned, ambient techno of Wolfgang Voigt (Gas).
Early on in The Relativistic Empire, Samuel Andreyev’s second collection, he asks “when did things / begin to lose their cohesion?” a question that could serve as a motto for the book as a whole. Actually to talk of this book ‘as a whole’ is rather irrational, as the only facts that make it complete are its finite number of pages and its two covers; it lacks even a table of contents, giving the impression of a free-form group of poems placed together at random. The poems themselves are (mostly) short, and generally feature a kind of deliberate nonsensicality. A typical example reads, “a thin layer of ice / protects the tongs only / to grasp an elusive concept // flown into paradise with- / -out removal colliding /jeeps stuck in mud,” the sort of language sequencing designed to stymie meaning.
Disjunction and interrogation form the backbone of Jake Kennedy’s Merz Structure No. 2 Burnt by Children at Play. The poems in the collection circle each other, continuously question themselves and embrace a position of uncertainty.
This position is achieved through the poetic structure where a subject is presented only to be doubted by the qualifier that follows. In “Futuromania” qualifiers in square brackets open and confuse the interpretation of the line: “for instance [matter of fact]”; “gallows in the public square—[informational].” Meanwhile notes in round brackets—“(anything better?)”—offer an outside opinion. In “On Fear”
Killdeer is poised for a hat trick: it’s won the Governor General’s Award for poetry and is a finalist for the Griffin Prize and the Ontario Trillium Book Award. That amount of acclaim shifts the lens of the review from standard to panoramic. It becomes somewhat of a given that a book with so much […]