This week's Snapshots diverge and intersect with one another. Where the words end and my body begins explores the depths of the body and rewrites her state of being, while Safely Home Pacific Western rewrites the mind in order to uncover the beauty of object and place. The Uncertainty Principle brings the body, the being, the object, and the word all together at once, as if Bennett were wrapping up Latosik and Dawn's words in her own creation and understanding of the world.
Where the words end and my body begins
Arsenal Pulp Press
In Where the words end and my body begins writer, filmmaker, and performance artist Amber Dawn rebuilds her glosa poems by constructing them on quotations from queer, gender-creative, feminist, and/or survivor writers. Dawn uses repetition as a method of regeneration to revitalize the seemingly strict structures of the glosa form and to transform her poems into something powerful and subversive. "If possible," she writes, "hear me tell a different story. / Survivorship is not hard stars, it's not a dim fable fucking / with me." Based on the words of Bachinsky, Stein, Clifton, Horlick, Queyras and many inspiring writers, Dawn deconstructs what we think we know in order to put our ideas back together again in a different order. In "Mother Did her Own Stunts" she challenges the distinctions between film and life, tearing them apart at the seams: "Costume blood: / and tomato, glass shard crown. What if / your father never got up from the ground? / Letterbox what memory has recorded / borders of the Real, surrounded". Although seemingly chaotic, Dawn's poetry does not let anything go unchecked: "Apathy is / the world's worst lover, over and over. // Queer Infinity"
Safely Home Pacific Western
Goose Lane Editions
Safely Home Pacific Western by Jeff Latosik functions as a kind of poetic, metaphysical travelogue. While Latosik does explore physical landscapes as well, some of his more interesting journeys are through "Borges's four stories, Plato's cave, / [or] the quivering string of Theseus". The adventures are part fantastical (almost on the verge of magic realism) and another part minimalist, sometimes even quite domestically human. But both kinds of exploration are enthralling in their own way and the biggest discoveries always come when they are least expected. Latosik's poetry, like his journey, is feverishly fluid, spiralling upwards into unknown heights. Not even the sky is the limit: "Just know that I only meant to turn left, / signalled, and suddenly was above the whole continent / in a drive so far and high I almost caught sight of the earth."
The Uncertainty Principle
Roxanna Bennett's debut poetry collection The Uncertainty Principle breathes, lives, and lingers. "What's right is not / what he desired. She incited argument, / invited dissent, reflected then severed the plot/ from his own story. She made him hero, lover, liar, / quarry. Quickly. He gets one kiss. One shot and expire." The Uncertainty Principle is a collection of familiarities, whether they are objects or experiences. The poems flicker in and out of existence, rewriting themselves as they are being read. "There is no remedy" comes three pages after "bloody stains on a marriage bed" but the phrases still collide and worship one another. The poems hang in the air like a dead body, but refuse to remain beyond the grave. Every one of Bennett's words is a rebirth: violent, miraculous, and beautiful. "I'm sick of how the world made it a rule / that women shouldn't walk / around outside alone. / What freedom do we have when the truth / is we are restricted in movement. / All I've got to say is I'll die being me, / I'd rather die free than live in prison."
This week’s Snapshots features three electrifying poetry collections from BookThug.
Here in There
Angela Carr’s Here in There is a collection of poems which examine attention, “they ask, do we give or pay attention? And what do we attend to? How do we decide what merits our attention?” Carr writes “I gave / my attention to the refrigerator. I sought its answers. I sought the / composition of preservation in the cramped space of provisions. / I sought the composition of attention. I gave my attention to an / avocado. I gave my attention to a knife.” The majority of the poems are double-spaced and there is something truly wonderful about all the blank space in this collection. The language is tight, but the format is loose. Towards the end of the collection Carr begins to write single-spaced and this sudden change makes the final poems feel incredibly urgent. They pulse forward with a sudden kick of adrenaline. These poems hum around the word attention and this is the sort of collection you’ll want to make sure you attend to soon.
Laws of Rest
Laws of Rest by David B. Goldstein is a collection which introduces the “prose sonnet”. I’ll admit, now that I have been introduced to this form I find myself craving more of it. Each poem consists of four carefully crafted sections and Marjorie Perloff writes that each poem contains “a fantasy world in which everyday experience is transmuted into things rich and strange.” These poems are very strange indeed. I couldn’t help but smile as each sonnet continued to surprise me with its charming language and imagery. The speaker stumbles through many curious occurrences in this collection. Goldstein writes, “She brings him to one of my parties, the kind where / everyone brings an overdue library book. She introduces his as Jamie; his book is Henri Michaux, so pretentious. 'Course civilizations spread out their feelings / like dishes,' he intones. It’s not even overdue, he just brought it to show off.” This is just one example of the strange and often funny world the speaker inhabits in Laws of Rest. I encourage you to read it for yourself, spend an evening with these tightly wound poems, unravel the extraordinary world Goldstein has created for his speaker to inhabit.
“Metaphysical Licks, a hybrid prose-poem/novella riffing on the lives and works of Austrian poet Georg Trakl and his sister, Grete, is the restless new work by writer and translator Gregoire Pam Dick.” Restless just might be the best description for this collection. Dick’s poetry can’t seem to sit still, the language is absolutely vibrating: “Melancholy slows the key frames. Notes or objects. / Her words are smarter than she is. Therefore this is a prophet. / Though it isn’t true until it’s wordless?” Images grind together, creating a sort of visual tongue twister, though it must be noted that at times the subject of this collection can be equally twisted: “Some brothers brain you for arousing them. Others like it, try to / arouse you back. Or else they started it.” Metaphysical Licks rattles boundaries, this collection tumbles down the page completely unaware of constraint.
This weeks Snapshots explore historical timeframes through recreations, reimaginings and exposures.
The Winter Count
The Winter Count is a poetry collection that explores relations between First Nations, Metis, and Settlers, around the time of the Red River Rebellion. This collection unforgivingly tears into and exposes this period of our Canadian History. Leman has created a shocking collection of poetry, she almost immediately exposes the reader to turbulent and gritty images, writing “Execute/the wounded. Bake in a hot oven/until 25 Assiniboine are dead/(women and children included)./Using a clean, sharp/knife, test for survivors.” These poems are not corralled by a single style or voice, instead they explore many styles, and many voices crawl in and out of this narrative collection. The Winter Count includes original poems, but also weaves “reconstituted archival texts” into the collection. These “reconstituted” poems manifest themselves in letters, interviews, diary entries, etc. “Riel was hanged/this morning / Wrote Carrie and almost/ ( ) Hituji asl conssy / proposed to her / xtrqssjl vr iir” This constant switch of style demands attention from the reader, but this is just the sort of collection you will want to give your full attention to.
Sin Eater is a collection of poetry that does exactly what the title suggests: gobbles up the seven deadly sins. The collection is arranged in seven sections, and the titled sin of each section is the driving force of the poems. In this collection, the seven deadly sins “reflect a modern context and culture”. In Greed, Hibbs writes “A cow and his jacket are soon parted. / Sometimes a cow is just his jacket / draped over a sawhorse.” This collection asks the reader to review a closed list with an open mind. By exploring the sins with modern day language and content, Hibbs is able to expose the sins, but also to expose today’s cultural norms. In Pride, we read “Something in the way I pressed my pencil / ranking my mood a zero / weighed more than yours. / My grief scored three full points / higher than yours.” The sin of each section is nuanced, but effectively there. After reading this collection you may find all seven sins squirming around under your skin. Hibbs’ poetry can do just that.
Afterletters is an exploration. This collection of poetry stumbles through the love letters shared between two twentieth century poets after WWII, creating a wonderfully raw and vulnerable collection. The poetry itself is well crafted, Kolewe has made a sophisticated piecemeal of the words shared between the two lovers. Kolewe reimagines the letters into poems with powerful shapes of their own “suspended from wires above the tracks that / my age and your age and the age of / don’t misunderstand me.” By taking language from the love poems and masterfully assembling them into poems, we are left with a vulnerable yet composed collection of work.