Ever since Emily Dickinson told us to tell it slant, poets have approached truth indirectly from refracted angles of their individual talent. In her fifth book of poetry Maureen Hynes approaches the truth through undercurrents of sotto voce, where words are overheard in quiet cadences. The cover of Sotto Voce displays a beige slope with a stand of darker trees, and an empty space for Hynes’s voice and vision to shape the contours of mind and landscape. Part of Bob Hainstock’s series of Simple Forms, the cover image, like the poetry within, conceals the quiet complexity of understatement. Just as Hainstock dots his landscape with rust patterns, so Hynes touches rusty railings to “etch a pointillism” on her palm. Indeed, through pointillist undertones Hynes indirectly apprehends many truths.
Award-winning Cree poet Louise B. Halfe – Sky Dancer tells the stories of awâsis (which means illuminated child), weaving tales of child-like humour and Indigenous resistance in her latest collection of poetry, awâsis – kinky and dishevelled. The Cree language has no pronouns for gender, so the shape-shifting awâsis is simply allowed to be and to play in their complexity—as a trickster, a healer, a joker, a nuisance, and an inspiration. Halfe prioritizes the authentic expressions of awâsis regardless of the confines of language or respectability, revealing an unapologetic mischievous trickster of an alter ego.
Emily Skov-Nielsen, New Brunswick mother and poet, has published her poetry in literary journals across the country. The Knowing Animals is her first published collection of poems. There is a powerful, yet subtle, suggestion of music in this collection as each sensation of knowing animals vibrantly sings her thoughts and emotions. Here, there is indeed a feminine expression of life and all that life means.
Lindsay B-e’s first book, The Cyborg Anthology, is speculative poetry at its finest. The anthology is written after a horrific disaster—“The Great Solar Flare”—destroys the overwhelming majority of cyborgs and robots on earth, and it attempts to chronicle the artistic and literary movement of cyborg poetry, which lasts from 2058 to 2202.
This debut collection of poetry from Shaun Robinson generously expands upon his work previously published across Canadian literary magazines and his chapbook Manmade Clouds from Frog Hollow Press (2017). Poems contained in this volume range in tone, from bleak to comic. The mind of each piece is both intelligent and calculated. This is captivating, lyric work.
In Standing in the Flock of Connections, Heather Cadsby’s original associations cascade through poems about the natural world and human relationships. Cadsby plays with links between thought and language with a heightened awareness of upsets and obsessions as well as her own poetic process. Poems in the final section of the book suggest that Cadsby’s musing about her process is linked to fear of losing it. Yet even with this fear, Cadsby is playful, making this collection a delightful read.
Dawn and dusk, autumn and winter thread through the Danish poetry of Ulrikka Gernes, whose Nordic melancholy transfers fittingly to Canadian sensibilities. Surreal dreamscapes suffuse this collection, which has been seamlessly translated into English by Patrick Friesen and Per Brask.
Carolyn Smart’s playful and heartbreaking seventh collection of poetry descends into the violent, hungry world that produced and destroyed the fast-driving outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Careen’s opening poem, “Texas, 1930,” is a prelude that simmers, introducing a world of “prison farms with lean and beaten men running before the riders with their guns.” The skillful language that creates time and place is buttressed by newspaper clippings and startlingly sweet excerpts of Bonnie’s own poetry. The many characters run together vocally in tone, diction, and inflection (most movingly Clyde’s brother and fellow gang member Buck, and Buck’s wife Blanche), just as their bodies ran together, sharing cars, liquor, blood.
Kim Trainor begins with a TV documentary: “We watch bright / threads of her dna unwound / and read from left to right // and learn her history. But where is she, /in the blue-stained karyogram, / this desiccated woman // this Beauty of Loulan, this beauty?” “Karyotype,” an unfamiliar word that literally refers to the gene sequence of a species, opens with a series of poems that describe ancient mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin of China, from which scientists were able to extract and analyze dna, and imagines their lives. The poems unfold, a meditation on human life and suffering, moving back and forth from Loulan (and other mummies) to the one who watches: “She is past / caring, her body now a manuscript / of faded letters and soft words // of mourning… I think I may be of her kind…” The still-beautiful Loulan was found in 1980, some 3800 years after she died, along with remnants of a textile culture: “…at the line’s end / a selvedge is quietly formed / like a scar… // So are we formed // along such ancient human drifting lines.”
The poems in Méira Cook’s fifth poetry collection, Monologue Dogs, give voice to a variety of well-known fictional and historical figures. Interestingly though, the monologues delivered by these familiar figures work to defamiliarize them. As a result we are made to experience their significance anew. Renewal and recovery are underlying themes in this volume, which in every line demonstrate the mind’s capacity to view the world in a fresh and meaningful way. This thematic interest is established early in the opening series of monologues when Young Eve, expelled from Eden, realizes the indifference of the world now surrounding her — “You’ll find sympathy / in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.” It’s a world that has lost its paradisal splendour: “We needed a garden or the idea of a garden, / an annihilating, green-shaped thought / to cast some shade.” Monologue Dogs is Cook’s response to this fundamental need, a need that extends beyond archetypal Eve to the core of the human psyche.