The recently renewed discussion over renaming Dundas Street in downtown Toronto is a reminder that naming, in our entrenched settler-colonial mindset, is a form of staking claim by transposing the old world onto the new. Naming is a birth, a step through the threshold of permanence, particularly when it comes to naming a location around which people will later orient their existence, particularly when the name given is as charged as Sappho.
Tammy Armstrong wastes no time in dispelling expectations of nature poetry in Year of the Metal Rabbit. In her the opening poem “We Spent the Summer on Islands,” she signals to readers that this collection will go beyond the call of nature: “We pushed off our boats and stayed awake counting stars / conjuring mythologies of black rabbits and hard chalk castles / weather patterns and qualities of light.” Here, Armstrong signals to her readers that Year of the Metal Rabbit will go beyond the call of nature. Her poems tirelessly traverse domestic and public spaces, and personal and historical narratives, in an endless, hungry search, not for anything specific, but out of a sheer desire to remain aware and present, to keep the first-person “I”—of the speaker and the reader—constantly in flux, because “something childish still / wants to stay in animal time” (“The Varying Hare”).
Subtitled “Four Essays,” Klara du Plessis’s new chapbook Unfurl has a deceptively simple-sounding premise, which she outlines in a short and informal “introduction”: “Un-furl is a negation with a generative definition. The word’s semantic growth is so strong that its prefix denoting absence is satiated, incorporated, and reinvigorated into verdure.” There is no single focus in the collection. Instead, Unfurl explores and celebrates the fluidity of language and “how poems go together, enter into dialogue with one another, rub up against one another, contrast and scratch at one another as they draw on an archive of an individual’s reading practice become writing.” It is less a formal critical analysis of four collections by four different Canadian poets—Erin Moure, Dionne Brand, Lisa Robertson, and Anne Carson—than it is a meditation and a fascination with freeing contemporary poetics from “corseting language,” as Erin Moure puts it.