“Family is a crawlspace,” says the speaker of the poem “Debtless,” “storing waterlogged paperbacks, / a cheap bottle of brandy in a filing cabinet” (86). These lines—metaphorically rich and balanced with detail and ambiguity—are representative of Adèle Barclay’s assured debut, If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You. There is suggestive power with “crawlspace;” a crawlspace is a dark space—what does that darkness portend? “Paperbacks” hint at family stories, but check out that adjective, “waterlogged.” The word contributes to a captivating rhythm, in which the “-logged” part functions sonically like a gulp by forcing a slight pause before moving on. Things do not become waterlogged on their own—waterlogging occurs by accident or natural disaster. These connotations arise in part from following the “show, don’t tell” maxim; they brilliantly suggest a narrative not constricted by telling, but also one that goes beyond showing, allowing room for a reader’s own experiences. Although the occasional poem feels a bit too much like a jumble of images and ideas, again and again, Barclay is able to find the right words and put them in the right order.
Congratulations to Paul Tyler, author of A Short History of Forgetting (Gaspereau Press), winner of the 2011 Archibald Lampman Award A Short History of Our Future With Aliens ~Paul Tyler On the day the aliens come, I’ll still go into work; it’ll be all the talk at the office. It’s getting closer. What skills they’ll […]