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Topic: Katia Grubisic

Nimbly probing: Matthew Tierney's The Hayflick Limit

Matthew Tierney’s _The Hayflick Limit_ opens with an excerpt from Joseph Brodsky’s winter eclogue, which in its 13 words raises at least as many questions: if each body “falls prey” to the telescope, is distance the hunter? Is proximity? Discovery? Is being preyed upon a relief from the indifference of time, death an acknowledgment of existence? The brevity and the stab of those lines pries us open, leaving the reader far more vulnerable than the poet, though Brodsky evidently knew whereof he wrote. Even my grumpy expectations are not so high as to compare Tierney to his epigraphist, but what a lesson in how to offer poems to their readers. In this second collection, Tierney offers up our world, from the commonplace to the contemporary to the cosmic, with craft and cleverness, but he shies away from that Brodsky-esque eviscerating evocation. …

The Canvas and the Paint: S.E. Venart's Woodshedding

S.E. Venart’s first collection is a case in sober point of the current temperance of Canadian poetry: reflective and studied, the lyrics of love, loss and a recalled childhood are rooted carefully in abstractions of the quotidian, the habitual and the [_matériel_]. The book’s title is borrowed from a blues reference to solitary, arduous rehearsal, and from an even earlier notion of parental punishments being spanked out in woodsheds. Venart poetically renders her pet technique in a found poem: “The most productive and fulfilling activity you can choose / to do. How society began. A sort of jam session. The nuts. / …Spending the day seeing what you can get / out of one note. The process of getting details down, all / it’s cracked up to be, the proof you need…”. Though these particular definitions are distilled and crafted words from other sources, the insistence on woodshedding as discipline, method and trope is Venart’s. So we go looking for the jam session, for the image or word worried, worked and coddled until it yields, for the details. The details are there, plentiful and recurring: the natural world is frequently the canvas, and memory the paint. The renderings range from Rockwell to Rothko. The strongest poems reflect the rigour that Venart’s shed-locked modus operandi implies…