Sarah De Leeuw’s Outside, America collects poems situated on the “outside” – whether the territory lies outside America or outside our doorstep – as well as poems set within American borders – a hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, a catamaran off the coast of Alaska while whale watching. Throughout, elegiac poems on the poet’s father are threaded with poems containing often wry ecological observations of the typical ironies we experience in the Anthropocene.
it was never going to be okay by jaye simpson is a moving collection of razor-sharp poems. Broken into four parts, part one opens with the speaker asking to be called sea glass, which is smooth, round, and beautiful. Glass is a recurring image throughout the collection, signifying both the potential to cut, and the potential to break. Indeed, simpson employs a beautiful breathy and broken line that dances across the page throughout the collection:
Like the book’s title, the poems of Adèle Barclay’s Renaissance Normcore move swiftly from unassuming to tightly coiled and somewhat provocative. “You Don’t Have to Choose But You Do” follows fast from epigraphs by Jenny Lewis and Fiona Apple and into the more traditionally literary, creating a Facebook Messenger conversation between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. The deft maneuvering is, by the end of the poem’s twenty-two lines, made comprehensible in the framework of an inequitable exchange: “I read their letters / and imagine them both on Facebook Messenger— / all the dick pics he’d send; her, chatting up / several men at once and never recycling material.”
Cassandra Blanchard’s debut collection of poetry, Fresh Pack of Smokes, opens up the world of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for the reader. Deftly using the prose poem to illuminate the inner-workings of the complex emotional and psychological experiences of addiction, Blanchard depicts life in the DTES with detail and care.
Any book that opens with a quotation by Joy Division is probably worth investigating and Near Miss is no exception.
In the foreword What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation, editor Rob Taylor gives his inspiration for the collection: 2002’s Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation (Nightwood Editions) edited by Tim Bowling. Where Bowling’s editorial vision encompassed an homage to Al Purdy (who died in 2000), Taylor’s honours the work of deceased poet and Tragically Hip singer Gord Downey. The title, What the Poets Are Doing, echoes a lyric from the Tragically Hip song “Poets.”
In Listening to the Bees, two writers of different genres undertake the seemingly impossible task of creating an organic osmosis of scientific knowledge and poetry through the language of bees. In his preface, Mark L.Winston (a scientist and bee expert) states that while “[b]ees provide superb opportunities for… subterranean layer[s] of reflection” through scientific research, there is a need to “prob[e] further.” His desire to “listen” to the bees goes beyond rational inquiry, leading to this collaborative project with Saklikar, an Indian-born Canadian poet. The book is an artefact of scientific ruminations on bees, poetry by Renée Sarojini Saklikar based on Winston’s scientific papers, and photographs, images, and drawings by both authors.
Laisha Rosnau’s latest book is a beautifully crafted suite of poems about generations of incredibly tough, joyous and risk-taking Ukrainian women whose stories mirror a spectrum of immigrant history, especially Canadian history. The poems range widely from past to present―from young women ending up on brutal Saskatchewan homesteads after the turn of the last century, fleeing the usual mix of poverty and patriarchy, to another generation of young women, one hundred years later, being bought and sold on Eastern European websites, trying to escape the same things―and in that combination and reach, the poems achieve a complex acoustic filled with hunger, voices and a silent persistence that survives. It’s a vast story.
“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.
Canadian-born Seattleite Kim Fu has followed up her much-lauded debut novel, For Today I Am a Boy (HarperCollins, 2014), with a debut collection of poetry. With it, she proves she is no less afraid of portraying emotion and complexity as a poet than as a novelist.
How Festive the Ambulance is divided into five sections, each themed around the relationships her miserably modern characters have with different parts of the world around them, from animals, to loved ones (and things), to culture, to place. Despite the divisions, each poem throughout the book is wound in a tangle of influences and affects, all tied to contemporary lifestyles.