This week's snapshots each explore home in some way—stretching from the dirt roads of small rural communities to the streets of Montreal.
Joanne Epp’s debut collection Eigenheim revisits the memories of childhood with all sorts of questions: “And what—I want to ask, / mending sweaters with the stitch / she taught me—does love look like / on winter afternoons when the washing’s not done and there’s all the family / to feed?” The speaker in these poems investigates youth with the knowledge of adulthood. It is through this investigation that Epp revisits and sophisticates memory: “Of course I was silly. / Of course I blame you. / Don’t you know what you did? / I was so sure I loved you.” The speaker in these poems is fascinated with unanswered pockets of memory. We read “She asked him, What are you looking at? / so that he could answer, the back of your throat / where all the words are waiting / till it’s safe to come out” and “Chances get missed, questions linger: / why did you swallow those pills? / what did you really want?” In Eigenheim, Epp “Examines death and birth, loss and love, deep searching and unquenchable longing” all the while asking all the right questions.
Karen Enns’s new collection Ordinary Hours takes us through Enns’s “rural Mennonite childhood.” This collection contains all the charm of a small town but most interestingly it contains the underlying ache of it. We read: “Maybe she knew what she was doing / following him to the bunker / like she did” and “The men are old and almost naked in the ward. / They lie with their arms and legs splayed out / as if to say, look at us. Look at our bodies. / Like clothes hanging out to dry.” These poems voice a community; there are many histories tumbled throughout these poems. The speaker frames her own identity around these stories and around the small town, we see how the home place can define us: “At midnight we walked with the music / still burning our fingers. / We knew it that way. On the skin. / Snow fell in the winter months. / Sometimes the cold left a seal on our foreheads / reminding us: the world still lives, / still eats, still takes the garbage out / and sleeps with its face to the wall.” This is a collection filled with vowel sounds, though the meaning of Enns’s words is anything but soft and muted: “Reading an Enns poem feels effortless: her rhythms and phrasing are so minutely calibrated that the poem unfolds as if of its own accord.”
Shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch award, melissa bull’s collection rue is a stunning debut. Like Enns and Epp, bull focuses on a home place in this collection—however instead of exploring Mennonite roots, bull “explores the familial, romantic, and sexual ties that bind lives to cities.” In this collection, bull flaunts a darling sense of humour; she adds gritty and irresistible charm to the monotony of daily life: “I dump out the grinds from the percolator, they make a / thunk. The damp little circle could be pretty, if it wasn’t for the smell of organic cow rotting in the hanging plastic bag.” This collection is armed with an overflow of cutting images that are difficult to forget: “I’d seen another like her the day before, dead on the sidewalk / with a plastic bag barely covering her face, her hair the colour / of nicotine stains, bushy and animated in the wind. A police / officer stood watching traffic. / Pedestrians milled around her like ants around a sandwich.” After reading this collection you will likely find that bull’s poems will revisit you: you might see them on the street corner or mottled in the kitchen sink, perhaps in the burn mark on the sofa which you have just noticed for the first time.
For this week’s Snapshots we decided to focus on one poetry collection instead of three. Exquisite Monsters by K. I. Press is best recognized for its final section, also titled “Exquisite Monsters”, in which the reader is encouraged to rip along the perforations of the page and draw in the book to create their own 3-piece poetry monsters.
"The book is alive and meant to be broken.
Do not tell the librarian."
The reader is encouraged to pull apart the book and build mismatched creatures not unlike the ones we used to make in elementary school. The most fun is had from sharing the book with friends, seeing their interpretations of the poetry, and combining different sections of monster bodies to create new beautifully horrific collaborations. The experience of reading (and creating) Press' Exquisite Monsters is entirely unique and had our whole office engaged in collaborative drawing.
You can take a look at our art below or write an original monster haiku for the chance to win a copy of Exquisite Monsters with illustrations by K. I. Press herself. See below for details.
The 'Turnip for What' Creature
Exquisite Monsters is both satisfying and disturbing. It is alarming to discover what you will draw when you are allowed and encouraged to. Drawing monsters on the torn up pages becomes an act of drawing out your fears and insecurities. Passing the book between coworkers and friends, discussing and drawing the differing interpretations that arise, becomes an act of therapy.
"When does the therapy start?" Press asks. The answer is: upon opening the book.
Between the pages of the collection, Press discusses mothering and childhood. She later uses the physical deconstruction of the book to visually represent these themes and the effect is powerful. Exquisite Monsters is somewhat representative of Lynda Barry’s graphic narrative One Hundred Demons, where drawing becomes a way of working through past traumas without having to find the right words. The process is simultaneously childlike and extremely dark.
In Exquisite Monsters, deconstruction is power. The deconstruction of the book is built into the construction of its pages. Press encourages us to tear the paper and, in doing so, shows us that it is only by tearing ourselves apart that we are able to reassemble and redefine the pieces of our self. Drawing, here, is a way to both remember and recover from memory.
To win a copy of this enchanting poetry collection, see below.
The Techno Troll
We have a copy of Exquisite Monsters by K.I. Press to give away! But wait... it gets better... Press has filled this copy (and this copy only!) with her very own doodles and drawings. The monsters featured in the side panel are teasers drawn by us. The only way to see Press' creations (and also read some great poetry) is to win the copy that we have here at CV2 Headquarters.
We want you to tweet a monster haiku @CV2magazine and the evil scientist (or poet) behind our favourite monster will win this unique copy of Exquisite Monsters.
Don't be afraid to get gruesome. That might just be exactly what we are into.
Need an example? Or just some inspiration? Check out our grisly haikus below:
The Existential Monster
Green hack-saw teeth gnaw
cockroach wings some human parts
while eyes bug nose runs
We don't want your blood
gnawing anxious creatures snarl
give us pills for supper
A haunting a day
keeps the doctor away so
he won't kill you, yet.
This week's snapshots have nothing in common. They are the oddball poetry collections we loved and could not resist writing about.
Arbeiter Ring Publishing
ARP’s Last Supper is the first poetry collection by American drummer, zinester, and lyricist Aaron Cometbus. This punk love letter to the city is a perfect book for those who crave poems about Elliott Smith and Manhattan subways. Cometbus’ writing is sharply original in its stark nostalgia. Nothing is sentimental, but everything is familiar: “The legendary womanizers of my youth / have grown fat and bald / worn and sad.” In Cometbus’ world, dirt and desperation have an unromanticized beauty--and he is head over heels for it: “I love the city / Not the nightlife but the real life / Gritty and free” … “it’s the city I’m with / as if on a date.” The highlight of Cometbus' collection is the poem Last Supper. It drives the collection onward, down streets and alleyways that are lodged in the past but leading ever forwards.
House of Anansi Press
Reading Kapusta by Erin Moure is somewhat like watching a perfectly coordinated train wreck. The French/English bilingual book is constructed like an absurdist play where the actors, silent except in our imagination, speak every single line (including the stage directions.) The actor-characters in Moure's "play-poem-pollen" hardly interact with one another but seem to communicate entirely in monologue. The effect is reminiscent of something by Samuel Beckett or Jonathan Ball--absurd, but somehow still meaningful: “That stage, that assemblage of particles, the body that constructs the stage by its presence, by its incorporation of presence as an equal! body and stage! body before stage! body constituted of rooms, upon a stage. / Anonymity of the murmur!” Kapusta is humorous but never superfluous, carefully scatterbrained but always relevant, and, as you will discover, Moure's brain is a beautiful and complex cabbage patch.
This World We Invented
Carolyn Marie Souaid’s This World We Invented is a powerhouse of unusual perspective. In this collection we tour from place to place alongside Souaid’s engaging speaker. Commonplace things are bent into new shapes: “Be wary of light. Know your birds / and the peculiarities of a feeding frenzy.” The simplest things can become strange when a poet sets her radar to manipulation mode; no image or item is safe: “The universe wasn’t born / a sinister ball of embroiled asteroids. / People weren’t always sick with desire. / Or perhaps they were, but hid it up their sleeve—“ Souaid's poetry struggles to sit still and instead “investigates our darker moments, faces up to losses and failures both intimate and public, often with wry humour”. This collection approaches seriousness with subtlety: “My Ex keeps asking do I want the cat back, / but my place is a wall short / and where pray tell to put the litter box? “ It is hard not to fall for these poems. When you read this collection, be prepared to scrape your (metaphorical) knees.