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Topic: S.E. Venart

The Canvas and the Paint: S.E. Venart's Woodshedding

S.E. Venart’s first collection is a case in sober point of the current temperance of Canadian poetry: reflective and studied, the lyrics of love, loss and a recalled childhood are rooted carefully in abstractions of the quotidian, the habitual and the [_matériel_]. The book’s title is borrowed from a blues reference to solitary, arduous rehearsal, and from an even earlier notion of parental punishments being spanked out in woodsheds. Venart poetically renders her pet technique in a found poem: “The most productive and fulfilling activity you can choose / to do. How society began. A sort of jam session. The nuts. / …Spending the day seeing what you can get / out of one note. The process of getting details down, all / it’s cracked up to be, the proof you need…”. Though these particular definitions are distilled and crafted words from other sources, the insistence on woodshedding as discipline, method and trope is Venart’s. So we go looking for the jam session, for the image or word worried, worked and coddled until it yields, for the details. The details are there, plentiful and recurring: the natural world is frequently the canvas, and memory the paint. The renderings range from Rockwell to Rothko. The strongest poems reflect the rigour that Venart’s shed-locked modus operandi implies…