Deborah-Anne Tunney’s A Different Wolf pulls an audacious trick: analyzing Alfred Hitchcock’s films. This device’s inherent problem, though, is that film tends to outwardly describe characters’ journeys while writing often inwardly describes them. Tunney excels doing a bit of both, but in imbuing observations with the personal, she viscerally pulls in readers.
Locked in Different Alphabets is Doris Fiszer’s first full-length collection of poetry, building on themes first developed in The Binders (Tree Press, 2016) and Sasanka (Wild Flower) (Bywords Publishing, 2018). The collection is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different departed member of the author’s family. The first, “My Brother George,” recalls often-painful childhood memories of her brother’s bullying, before abruptly moving far forward, when George has lost much of his life to ALS. The section experiments with almost onomatopoeic line and word breaks, the use of space and spacing adding movement and levity to uncomfortably serious confessional pieces:
The poems of rushes from the river disappointment by stephanie roberts do indeed come at us as a rush. In “i never tire of the moon,” one of my favourite poems from the book, the speaker says, “thankfully, we share the same sky if little else.” I am thankful too. These are poems to share: they are at times playful, bleak, flirtatious, despairing and always attentive.
Danielle Janess’s debut poetry collection is a richly layered exploration into dark reaches of family history and inter-generational repercussions, largely from the perspective of a WOMAN searching for clues about her Polish GRANDFATHER while she and her CHILD are living in post-Wall Berlin. Yes, the upper case is intentional: a “cast list,” tellingly labelled “Displaced Persons” rather than “Dramatis Personae,” appears at the front of the book, and the characters’ titles are capitalized in a number of the poems.
Dominik Parisien’s debut poetry collection, Side Effects May Include Strangers, begins by shaving away at the artifice of language, attempting to build a bridge atop the unbreachable chasm between intent and extent. Parisien’s plight for conveyance and understanding begins by unravelling the mythology of the human body into fundamentally problematic ideological patterns that are discriminatory towards physical and mental disability. In the very opening poem, “Let Us For A Moment Call This Pain By Other Words,” Parisien writes: “Ask, Can we for a moment make of Beauty / the measure of our pain? And I will answer”
The titular and opening poem of Ganymede’s Dog dominos quickly from the abductee of the ancient myth to his appropriation by Budweiser (a depiction of the boy being carried away by an eagle once graced the beverage’s label) to the cup bearer’s dog who was left “carrying on in the various oil paintings taken down by witnesses.” If we thought we were heaven bound with the boy, we are instead startled back to earth and into the company of the eponymous Joey who is left to mourn after his boy.
Margo Wheaton’s poems in The Unlit Path Behind the House are clean, rich in lived experience, and grounded in sharp observations of both the natural world and the realm of human relationships. She avoids many of the mistakes made in a first book of poetry: muddied and laboured metaphors, showboating, self-absorption, and a paucity of content. Here are just a few of the lines that caught my eye:
“No ‘we’ should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people’s pain,” Susan Sontag wrote, sounding a note of caution to artists who would seek to ally themselves with marginalized people. Can the artist stand with both her subjects and her audience? Which “we” is looking and which is being looked at?