This week's Snapshots feature a wide array of poetry. For those of you who don't know which poet to read next, the following collections will either be your saving grace or your worst nightmare. But don't get weighed down; let these voices wash over you and drift off with all of their poetic possibilities. There is something here for everyone.
The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology 2014
House of Anansi Press
This anthology provides a sampling of poetry from the 2014 shortlists for The Griffin Poetry Prize. The Griffin Poetry Prize is awarded each year to the most outstanding volumes of poetry (published both internationally and in Canada) and recognizes works written in English as well as translations. This year's anthology features international writers such as Rachael Boast, Brenda Hillman, Carl Phillips and Tomasz Różycki, as well as Canadian writers Anne Carson, Sue Goyette and Anne Michaels. Before each poetry sample, editor Robert Bringhurst has included the judges' citations as an introduction. The anthology is a wonderful read if you don't know which Griffin Prize finalist to start with, but unfortunately many of the shortlisted collections lose power in being removed from their original context. Robert Bringhurst brings up this issue in his introduction, but the question remains open to the reader: is this something worth anthologizing or is it better to read the books independent from one another?
Theseus: A Collaboration
Unlike The Griffin Poetry Prize 2014 Anthology and Force Field, Theseus is not an anthology, however it does feature the voices of more than one writer. Theseus tells a story through its creation as well as its narrative. Writing began in the autumn of 1966 and it took bpNichol and Wayne Clifford more than twenty years to write the first two parts of the work. It wasn't completed until after Nichol's death, when Clifford added Part Three using elements of Nichol's Martyrology, as a means of tribute, eulogy, acceptance and lie. It's a fascinating read, in the way the two voices play off each other and how it allows Nichol's writing to live on beyond him: "voice doubled,/ a man & a woman/ speaking years apart/ We speak her speaking of his heart."
Force Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia
Force Field introduces itself as the first anthology of BC women poets in 34 years. It features four poems from seventy-seven different women poets who currently live and write in British Columbia. Each poet is introduced with a photo and a bio which offers some context for the readers. Edited by British Columbian poet and children's writer Susan Musgrave, the anthology does a wonderful job of providing readers with an easily accessible sampling of writing by BC women. By bringing these poets together like this, one can only hope that Musgrave is making their work more accessible and recognizable to the world. However, as Heather Jessup asks in her review for The Malahat Review, does classifying poetry as "women's poetry" make us more aware of women or does it further the gender divide?
For more reading options, check out our free poetry eBook samplers!
This week's Snapshots focus on books that tie the world up in knots. Whether writing about our cultural roots, global dilemmas, or the fluency of Lake Ontario, all three of these authors illustrate a beautiful subjectivity of being. The more complex your readings become, the more coherent the poetry seems.
Jennica Harper's Wood plays with pop culture and parenthood. Divided into six different sections, Wood explores the feminist struggle of Mad Men's Sally Draper, the boyhood temptations that Pinocchio faces, and the illustration of a father as seen through comparisons to famous male celebrities. Harper approaches the topic of romanticism by deconstructing the romance of popular culture and addresses the issues of modern communication by acknowledging the double standards they enforce: "I hear what you're saying. / But not what you're meaning." In Wood everything comes back to our roots, whether familial, cultural or societal, the past is intertwined to create a poetic representation of the complexity and multiplicity of identity: "We are older now. Have / filled our skins. / Have filled our lives with / others' lives, and living."
New Star Books
Sybil Unrest was originally released in 2008 by LINEBooks but was recently re-released by New Star Books. Despite its older original release day, the collection still feels modern due to its avant-garde and subjective examination of humanity as a global species. Lai and Wong reappropriate 20th century Steinian wordplay in order to create a new poetic language of the 21st century, one with a strong feminist voice and sharp personal-political edge: "the fearsome chasm / spasms / vengeance / of the dispossessed / flash angry breasts / fossil fuels erotic offer / venous on the half shell."
Arguments with the Lake
Wolsak & Wynn
Tanis Rideout's Arguments with the Lake tells the story of two teen swimmers, Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell, who try to conquer Lake Ontario. The water becomes a metaphor for the fluency of events and relationships, as well as the way in which our actions affect every other: "always turning, clockwise. By love, by sex. By want. So simple to be a fish. / I'm always giving it away. With each stroke, flutter, catch kick and the surging need to inhale, inhale, like I've never taken a breath before." Arguments with the Lake is a coming of age story with a similar feminist edge to Wood and Sybil Unrest: "She says nothing. Just as she's told. Just smiles." Rideout's poetry illustrates the painful limitations of the human body by focalizing on the beauty and trauma of failure: "O, the lake. The only thing that kept me afloat / was what I thought was on the other side."
Looking for some quick Summer reads? Check out our free poetry eBook samplers.
This week's Snapshots feature younger and emerging writers in honour of our Poetry Lives Here! campaign. The following books are all examples of strong, emerging Canadian poets. Each of these women write about motherhood, animal-imagery, and violence with such sharp emotional wit that the poems themselves feel emotionally violent. Bird poetry is reappropriated from its usual flightiness into powerful testimonies of inequality, violence, and trauma, while objects are shown to bear the weight of even the most painful experiences.
Andrea Bennett is a freelance writer, reasearcher, and illustrator living in Vancouver, BC. She is the designer of PRISM international, a contributing editor at Geist, and an interviews editor for Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA). Canoodlers, her debut poetry collection, offers a fresh perspective on the ‘coming-of-age story’. Bennett’s poetry is a charming mix of feminism, youth, knowledge, and violence. She explores the affects of fame (“when you are famous, / everything you do is famous”) and media (“ready for the palate / of a judge, we / cut to commercial”) on our experiences, and shows how the familial has become one with consumerism in the current age. In Canoodlers, every one and everything tells a story, whether “a wig. A watch. A convertible” or “a suitcase full of clothing. Petticoats / and Mary Janes. A fall, a fall.”
House of Anansi Press
Sara Peters has her MFA from Boston University and was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University from 2010 to 2012. Her first poetry collection 1996, like Bennett’s, tells a coming-of-age narrative through the exploration of youth, violence, and feminism. But 1996 is very much its own story and Peters’ voice is unforgettably unique. In 1996 the everyday becomes alarming, (“secrets thud / like June bugs against screens, / and all you have to do is let them in”) femininity becomes unsettling (“we know we are in this, up to our waists. But still we’re ashamed / to want what we cannot name. My sister’s trailing her tongue / across our mother’s mirror”), and sex becomes violent (“the last time I slept in this bed/ I was involved in the serious business/ of ripping apart my own body.”) Peters writes not only about the cruelty of people, but about the cruelty of situations, whether a dysfunctional family, a broken relationship, or “a doorless house—a table set for none.”
In the Tiger Park
Alison Calder was the winner of the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers in 2004. In the Tiger Park is her second poetry collection after Wolf Tree (Coteau) which was published in 2007. Calder has mastered the art of saying a lot with few words, a practice she metafictionally refers to in her poem “The Space Between”: “If you think space is a blank, consider the prairie. / Every inch of it wears the imprint of workboots.” When she’s at her best, her poetry swings punches, and sometimes her lines have the power to knock the stuffing out of you. In the Tiger Park is both dense and spare, both witty and moving. It reminds us, with both sadness and practicality, of what was once there, what is, and what cannot be: “Scorched / words flake off like paint, / disappear into dirt.”