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.
These Snapshots are in honour of CV2's upcoming Water issue. We hope these books inspire your own water-themed poetry. To submit to our Water issue, go to our submissions guidelines page. Submissions are due September 3, 2015. Please note that we do not accept submissions from June 1st through August 31st.
The sea with no one in it
The Porcupine's Quill
The sea with no one in it is Niki Koulouris's debut poetry collection. Within these pages, "Koulouris creates a lollapalooza of startling juxtapositions, mixing the obsolete, extinct, familiar and yet-to-be." The sea with no one in it is fantastical adventure in which water is synonymous with art. "The sea does not need lions in it / needless elephants and bears / from here there is nothing to behold / but the solitary cranking out of waves". This collection is a tour of imagination; it is not seasick but precise. "It's always midnight / in the river / between two poems / the river / no wider than a cross / no longer than the journey / you are a fish / in the Seine / the midnight mast / of the brakeless / Nile / camped like / the spire/ of this book."
Dark Water Songs
Mary Lou Soutar-Hynes' Dark Water Songs rolls continuously forward like waves. The collection is fluid in both content and form. "Drowning is easy / here-- the poem dark water, a falling stone." As Allan Briesmaster writes, "[t]he texts are shaped like sculptures: with indents and caesuras creating 'negative space' and added visual rhythm--layouts consonant with her often vividly pictorial imagery." Soutar-Hynes likens water to the act and art of writing. "This moment, I wanted / to say, is a poem-- "
In this collection Ross Woods translates Pablo Valdivia's beautiful debut collection Breathing Underwater. For Woods and Valdivia, water is life. "On the bed of the lake / the future awaits us sitting / upon a sandbank of submerged hope." Valdivia's poetry is full of longing and desperation, the anticipation of water in a desert. To the dry mouth, these poems are the first drop. Like, The sea with no one in it Valdivia's Breathing Underwater is a journey: "On olive-scented nights / he still crosses ill-fated / paths into the open country / of the black market and blood." Grab hold and set sail.
This week's Snapshots explore family, relationships, place, and the landscapes of Canada. Because many of the poems included these three poetry collections are dedicated to or written about mothers we would also like to wish you all a Happy (belated) Mothers Day!
Joanne Epp's poetry collection Eigenheim manages to linger in the past without ever getting sentimental. Epp's nostalgia is beautifully unpleasant, caught up in the hidden glances between teen girls in a locker room and the violent dissonance between now and then. In Eigenheim, every moment flirts with anxiety and time is neurotic: "Her mother only said: 'Go to sleep. / Nothing's going to happen.' Still, / she checked the stove twice / before crawling into bed." Every poem finishes with its own little heartbreak, where there is "[n]othing to do [...] but rebel / against [...] the ache of memory, / all the impossible questions." The narrator slides back and forth between the past and the future by weighing her present down with muddy memories. Epp's poetry is heavy and waterlogged, like trying to play a piano under water, the "dampening sound, blunting the edges / of memory." Her themes and variations remind us that today, like every day, is "a good day for dissonance."
Monologue Dogs starts on a sharp note with the poem "The Devil's Advocate" and Meira Cook's brilliant turn of phrase: "My client sends his regrets. He is busy / falling through blank verse for all eternity." Like Epp, Cook manages to avoid being sentimental while still writing longingly about the past and childhood. Instead, her poetry bites down on nostalgia with a violently candid wit. While she references old stories and folktales (Hansel and Gretel, Adam and Eve) Cook's phrasing is still completely original: "my mother blooms like the stars you see / when you ram into a tree, a kiss, / old bony inevitability." Monologue Dogs is not, as its title suggests, uni-voiced, but actually a dialogue between characters, stories, and memories. The story of Geppetto and Pinocchio is contrasted with and compared to the relationship between Virginia and Leonard Woolf, a tie that makes no sense at all and, at the same time, perfect sense in its madness. Cook uses Monologue Dogs as a way to make us question what we believe, whether we can believe what we hear, and whether our beliefs are ever heard. "I thought God would hear. / I knew the neighbours wouldn't."
Rue is a debut poetry collection by Melissa Bull and was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award. In Rue, memories are tied up in the intersections of city streets and meaning is caught between the English (to rue meaning "to regret") and the French (la rue or "the street.") Bull's poetry ploughs through the streets of St. Henri, Montreal and knocks down the boundaries between languages as well as between places and their memories. Like Eigenheim and Monologue Dogs everything in Rue, whether long-past or yet to come, feels sharply and violently present, like a "bruise, a tongue curling under it." In the end, every poem in Rue is a fragmented dialogue, a piece of (mis)communication: "Tonight I saw a movie where a couple argues, / no holds barred, the way we do, / and then laces themselves / tentatively back together again, the way we do." But even Bull's vulnerabilities rebound as strengths, "unsheafed / unleavened umbilicus shrimp," and her words strongly resist de(con)struction.