In the past ten years (post-Kildeer, pre-Covid), I’ve been lucky to have more than a few chances to hear Phil Hall read in the bars, cafes, lecture halls and ballrooms of the Ottawa and Gatineau valleys. His poetry—his voice—is a marvel. He would put it differently. In Niagara & Government, Hall’s 17th collection, it’s “a discordance / that cherishes & defies.” It’s also a “miserable rant voice,” “honesty’s long squeak,” “unboiled calligraphy,” an “unlikely tongue / I am not ashamed of anymore.” With it, he is “curating strident toward a fable / of leaky worth.”
Reading Kyeren Regehr’s Cult Life feels like hearing a friend explain their abusive relationship, a conversation starting with Irish Breakfast Tea but likely ending with whiskey or wine. At 104 pages and with 61 poems set in Avenger/Baskerville typeface on quality paper stock, Cult Life is a troubled beauty of three parts. By Part II, the reviewer understood what the poet was doing. The key turned in the lock. Kaleidoscopic, phantasmagoric, spiritual refrains and perspectives resolved into a pattern. Regehr’s themes of dislocation, transcendent light, judgement and sensuality reverberate throughout.
Michael Kenyon’s latest book of poems undermines our obsession with linear time so that we are drawn out into a field of simultaneity―a field where predictable, temporal stories cannot hold―and are spun instead into a spatial face-to-face with light and dark, with personal and cultural history that appears as time-lapse photography, and with heart-breaking microcosms of personal memory set against threatening, ominous macrocosms of sweeping political change. Lamb is an exquisite book of poems.
Tell commands the reader to stare at the 1997-headlining murder of Reena Virk, the BC teenager swarmed by a gang of high schoolers then killed in a BC ravine. Stare, fixate on, and absorb the reality of the scene, texture of her skin, and inner life cut off.
“Trials” sets the stage, pleading with the universe not for criminal justice, but a balance where the involuntary silence of the victim’s jacket is not tragically mirrored by the voluntary silence of her murderer:
The individual sections in Maleea Acker’s second book of poetry, Air-Proof Green, act like an optometrist’s refractor, the lenses slotting into place, one after another, the calm voice, the birds outside. Can you see better now? How about now? Acker’s poetry is all about perception, about seeing better, about being still enough to see. In […]