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.”
Phoebe Wang’s Admission Requirements is, from the title itself, a collection inflected with tender irony. Admission, here, appears in all its meanings: the act of letting in; the privilege of being allowed, and the price paid for it; the acceptance of difficult truths. Variations of the word “settler” appear throughout, in double entendres. One could think of Wang’s poetry as an introspective land acknowledgement.
Fernandes lets us enter his poetic mind the way he might let you into his home, and you know at once you won’t be a guest there. You’ll be permitted to browse the bookshelves, to finger the drooping flowers and to examine his half-built machines, asking, “What are these for?” Though the answer may surprise you. “There’s this time I’ve always / wanted to talk about with someone…” Raoul Fernandes writes in the opening poem, addressing the reader like a confidante. Transmitter and Receiver may be Fernandes’ debut but it does not feel like the work of a debutante. Astute, wry and reassuring, these poems contain a gentle yet insistent lesson for us.
In a season of debuts, Elise Partridge’s The Exiles’ Gallery builds like a grand finale. It is her third and final book, the last we will ever receive from this maestro of the finely-tuned image. We may never understand how Partridge’s quiet economy can also be dangerously unsettling. In these poems there is a voice sure of its own pitch, telling us of life’s missed chances and the griefs which careen out of our control. It’s like being taken to a cliff’s edge by a guide who calmly elucidates its potential terrors.
Given the immensity of Canada’s geography and the breadth of its poetic styles, it’s surprising that poetic correspondences, such as the one between Allan Cooper and Harry Thurston, don’t occur more frequently. The Deer Yard is a verse exchange that invokes the Wang River Sequence between 8th c. Chinese poets Wang Wei and his friend […]
One can detect from the opening pages of The Family China that its author, Ann Shin, has a sense of craft that diverges from poetic conventions. The five long poems that comprise the book are crowded with drama, as well as with the silent scenes often omitted from the frame. That Shin is also a […]