Douglas Burnet Smith is one of our best poets, with collections of deftly created lyrics (especially in Ladders to the Moon and Learning to Count) and a stunning anti-war long work, The Killed. His new book is an anti-war narrative sequence, set in 1915 during World War I, that swirls around the execution of teenaged Private Herbert Burden on a charge of desertion. Narrated by very young Canadian soldier, Lance Corporal Reginald Smith (the poet’s distant relative), the story intertwines Smith with the tragic fate of Burden, one of hundreds so executed.
I first read Randy Lundy’s Field Notes for the Self in strengthening spring light. It is a joy, because in this unexpected time of isolation, light and poetry are friends come to visit.
Cloud Physics, Karen Enns’ third book of poems, is an unsettling work of great beauty. Groups of poems are separated by visual fragments—perhaps stand-ins for the spare, elegant cover image, itself a subtle marvel of motion conveyed in hundreds of dots and tiny markings of varying densities, like a choral song, or particles of light and shadow, rising and falling. In the opening poem, “Cloud Physics,” a deep sadness for the present age is rendered as fragmentation, fear, doubt, renewal, and loss. But listen to Enns’ language in the third stanza of this powerful and evocative poem: