Feature Review by Triny Finlay
Laura Farina. This Woman Alphabetical. Toronto: Pedlar Press, 2005.
Andrew Steinmetz. Hurt Thyself. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2005.
Tony Cosier. The Spirit Dances. Manotick: Penumbra Press, 2005.
In her recent book 21st-Century Modernism: The “New” Poetics, American critic Marjorie Perloff wonders “what if, despite the predominance of a tepid and unambitious establishment poetry, there were a powerful avant-garde that takes up, once again, the experimentation of the early twentieth century?” Perloff’s definition of the avant-garde in Anglo North-American poetry foregrounds technical and formal invention; a preoccupation with the materiality of language; and the genre-breaking, non-representational innovations of early Modernists like T.S. Eliot and Gertrude Stein. In Canada, this type of avant-garde poetry is generally given short shrift, limited to occasional media frenzies surrounding such anomalous, popular phenomena as the procedural poetics of Christian Bok. And this is a contentious matter in contemporary Canadian poetics, this quest for the “new” in a forest of old growth. Open almost any anthology (or anti-anthology) of new Canadian poetry published in the last five years–tellingly, there are several–and you will indeed find a considerable amount of “establishment poetry.” But there are unexpected, unexposed avant-garde roots among many contemporary Canadian poets, which just might signal a paradoxical return to the “new.”