The August edition of Snapshots is written by Ariel Beynon and celebrates diversity, deviations in structure and mode of telling.
Ariel Beynon is a poet whose work has appeared in multiple past issues of Juice Journal, and in the upcoming anthology Persian Sugar in English Tea (Volume III)—a collection of love poetry translated from English into Persian. Hailing from the scruffy, lovable North End of Winnipeg, Ariel draws upon nature and everyday life as primary sources of inspiration for his writing.
Book of Annotations
Cameron Anstee’s debut collection of poetry Book of Annotations takes the reader on a journey of discovery with work that switches between the “sensuous, natural, familiar, unexpected [and elusive].” Each piece is one thread in a diverse tapestry of the different aspects of life, moments of need—“I believe you when you say / I don’t know what I’ll do if—,” and moments of interaction—when “the cat sniffs the length of my arm.” There is fearlessness to explore the common while simultaneously considering the sublime. The way the poetry is structured also metamorphosizes throughout the collection. There is an excitement that comes from not knowing what the next page will look like—how the stanzas, how the lines, how each word will be spaced. The true enjoyment, however, comes from appreciation of how the diversity of the structure ties into the diversity of the subject matter; the structure reflects the theme in each different narrative that Anstee takes the reader on—a trip well worth taking.
Wolsak and Wynn
David James Brock’s poetry collection Ten-Headed Alien straddles poetry and science fiction in a way that integrates both of these literary conventions seamlessly. There is a sustained narrative that runs throughout—the arrival of a monster and the simultaneous breakdown of human society—tropes common to those familiar with the genre of science fiction. The medium of poetry, however, allows for the narrative to be told in a new and exciting way—each one a short glimpse into a different viewpoint from someone in this new world order, whether it be a woman with the head of a fish in Parkland or one of the heads from the ten-headed alien. Vivid imagery and remnants—:“The Once Popular Sci-Fi Music Genre (Recording Found),” “Artefact Carved in the Bark of Garry the Glass Tree (Undiscovered),” and “Skeletal Remains at the Bottom of Former Fishtail Lake (Discovered)”—provide backdrops and flesh out the world even more, allowing for further immersion. This new vehicle for telling doesn’t hamper the mode or the flow; instead, it allows for a greater concentration of varied ideas and ruminations on “human failure, vulnerability and hubris.” For those looking for something off the beaten track, David James Brock’s collection is the perfect springboard for exploration, whether it be a light reading or a more in-depth examination.
What If Zen Gardens...
In his collection What If Zen Gardens…, Henry Beissel invites the reader to take in a spectra of images ranging from more traditional subjects of reflection, to sections of thought, to a linear exploration of the four seasons. Accompanying the poetry is a collection of illustrations by Arlette Francière, which further enhances the reflective nature of Beissel’s words. Writing in an ancient poetic structure that creates restraints when it comes to visual structure and length, Beissel is able to create in exactly seventeen syllables—no more, no less—images that stick with you; read through it too quickly and you miss out on this. The firm structure and brevity doesn’t create a sense of disconnectivity; each poem is one piece in a puzzle. In a world where time has become something of an obsession, the reader is given the chance to slow down and enjoy each haiku individually or as a part of a greater whole, to revel in the beauty of words, in “violets—blue chips / scattered from heaven. Summer’s heralds on the ground,” to be drawn in by the first line and want more when the third and final line comes around.
This is poetry for a more honest, emotionally and politically astute future.
Davis is a Winnipeg intermedia artist working with poetry, audio/composition, and performance.
I Have to Live
Penguin Random House
In an era where lyricism and conceptualism over-determine what counts as “good” poetics, there is something startling about an epigraph which reads: “What would I write if I were going to live?” The body is alarmingly present in Aisha Sasha John’s work, threatening the existence of the poem itself: “Why should I know what I’m talking about / When I could merely feel it?” And yet there is pleasure in the game—not of “knowing”, exactly—but of dancing around reality. In “I like it when we give the world to itself,” the speaker chimes, “Folding it to it / Like a soft-shelled taco. Hi, God. // I said in the photo’s caption. / It’s Aisha. // I volunteer.” And yet no intervention will do—Jim Jarmusch’s nostalgically orientalist Only Lovers Left Alive doesn’t make the cut: “It was as fake as most movies. […] Tangiers / Is not like that.” The issue is not so much that some specially privileged “I” has to live, but that we have to live together: “My heaven meets me in the day. / My heaven meets me in / Your company.”I Have to Live offers a profoundly relational and radically readable poetic.
Coach House Books
In addition to her poetic and academic pursuits, Queyras is the founder of Lemon Hound, Canada’s preeminent source for poetics online, where emerging and established voices are put into a curated conversation.My Ariel is a highly personal variation on this sort of project. Writing over, under, and beside the life and work of Sylvia Plath, her critics, and her biographers, My Ariel establishes the rules of the game in its opening poem, named after Plath’s “Morning Song,” as the speaker wakes and groggily checks their phone: “What is missing in me? Refresh. Refresh. / I can’t stop looking for love here.” Love, absence of sanctioned desires (filial, romantic, poetic), and an excavation of intensely private spaces—Queyras’ and Plath’s—carry the collection. “Daddy” is haunted by fathers: “I feel all the daddies, Sylvia. They brawl inside me like drunken Colossi, elbowing my aorta, kicking my uterus. […] I wish I could laugh when the hands that caught me at birth and later slit me in two like an apricot fly up at me in the middle of sex.” Mothers retreat only to return as wounds the speaker does not know how to live without: “How can I escape the force / Of her narrative, how she pulls everyone / And everything into her design? Then, / How will I survive without her voice? What silence / Will invade the dark centre of my mind?” Children arrive to the speaker and her partner, but fear and failure tug at the corners of this new love: “I dreamed I was crossing the Verazano on foot / and an earthquake came. I was caught, holding on to the railing, / both babies in my arms. // One fell. // We understand the solitude of the journey when we sign up, we don’t understand the solitude of the journey.” Towards the end of the collection the speaker asserts: “I needle through the / Black eyes of my past, / Which must also be my // Future (you can’t / Create what you can’t / Imagine).” This is poetry of and for pain but also, unrepentantly, of and for love.
Assi, the land of the Innu, rises in Fontaine’s Assi Manifesto and speaks: “Precious water. Flowing water. Fierce water. / I dance on the river. Working the rudder of the medicine wheel. My thirst is a manifesto. / then there is Alberta, Fort McMurray, Athabasca. / Where I stumble.” There is an urgency to these poems, a violent ecological and spiritual longing: “I’ll write you a manifesto / a love manifesto a paper manifesto // I hear you beating my destiny / the north and south dying / […] Hurry up and join me / the tundras are sagging.” Time expands to embrace the speaker: “I am three women in one / I am daughter / mother grandmother / […] I am moon land sea / my memory / […] a territorial tremor / a rumbling of ancestors / the heart the emptied wombs.” Joy becomes revolution: “Pleasure is resistance / resistance is pleasure / in your hand / red blood / red framework.” The speaker cries for an apocalyptic rebirth of the land: “The caribou / the buffalo the horses / the deer will come / with the land / drown the pipelines // We will burn / the residential schools / the paper acts // We will embody / a huge fire.”
From the hyperreal to the bare-boned and bleeding, October’s snapshots probe systems that seem out of our hands, and bring to life both our complicity and agency.
Rachel Narvey is a poet and a wannabe witch from Winnipeg. When she is not studying or working, she is probably dancing around in her room to 2000s pop hits.
In Slow War, Benjamin Hertwig touches on some of our deepest national myths, only to push in, breaking the veneer of patriotism to reveal something much more potent. Hertwig leads the reader through vignettes of a prewar journey, (the girls at school/will like you more/for having gone to war), culminating in unshakeable memories of trauma upon returning home (try to convince yourself that the smell/of bodies in your bed/comes from meat cooking/in the room above). Hertwig is unabashed in situating the reader immovably in disillusionment (In Flanders Field some shit/went down), his tone curdling in poems like “Food Habits of Coyotes, as Determined by Examination of Stomach Contents” where metaphor dissolves into stark horror. While cruelty is certainly on feature here, Hertwig also takes interest in the full range of human capability, meditating on casual acts of compassion in a place where human touch is scarce enough that a brush on the shoulder can feel like an encounter with god. God is of particular interest to Hertwig, who grapples to make space for something greater continuously throughout this collection. Time, god, and war collapse and entangle, before “Remember Your Body Again,” where “cedar smells of god/and a Bach cantata/makes you almost/forgive/your hands.”
Feel Happier in 9 Seconds
Coach House Books
In her collection Feel Happier in Nine Seconds, Linda Besner’s envisioning of god is less ubiquitous, but rather “has a pimpled visage.” When the quotidian is becoming increasingly bizarre and surreal, even terrifying, Besner supplants the reader in her own landscape of absurdity, making space for moments of hilarity and even joy. Her poetics seem to suggest that happiness is less a degree of control (flog a sunbeam, harness/a cloud) and more a process of letting go completely, surrendering to the ludicrous. Besner takes jabs at neoliberal ideals of productivity (I for one, have been making a list of lists to make), and happiness that is scalable and competitive (my happiness is twice/your size). Where news headlines today feel unbelievable and often harrowing, Besner takes cultural ongoings to the exponential. An MGM exec declares supremacy over the sky, Mother Nature goes to court, and an interviewer asks the interviewee for her bra size. In this collection, Besner seems to allude to the uses of imagination for navigating the current landscape: “I found I was driving/a cardboard box/with the steering wheel/drawn on. Hitting/the breaks meant/veering into a hard place/and falling down.”
Where Besner is wry games and witty jeers, Joe Denham is grim inevitability in his collection of poems, Landfall. Here, the wording is sparse, leaving the page to feel like a litany performed to a cloaked audience. Denham wants to make us aware that “the air we breathe still, with ease, assuming always” is running out, becoming irrevocably changed, and we’re too plugged in to notice (enter stage right exit when/we slump back into our devices). Denham is not one to supply answers, and indeed, we see the speaker consider hurling themselves into the sky, debating whether or not to cover up in KY jelly and whipped cream and just disappear into oblivion. Still, in the midst of total nihilism and individual user isolation, Denham makes time for open air: “I know you want/just a little more, and deserve it so. And do. Adrift we are inside/this open blue.” But Denham also makes it clear that wanting, while cathartic, is also what brought us to the end of the world in the first place (“maybe free will is a stone dropped forever into a/ bottomless well”). These poems seem to suggest that we are capable, indeed, of going both ways, but deciding on which is something that might just pass us by before we can manage it. “What if we actually have to choose,” Denham warns.