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.”
This week's Snapshots feature younger and emerging writers in honour of our Poetry Lives Here! campaign. The following books are three examples of the new and emerging voices in Canadian poetry today. While these three books are incredibly different from one another, they do have one thing in common: they are all wonderful (summer) reads. For even more summer reading suggestions, check out our new free poetry samples.
House of Anansi Press
Anne-Marie Turza has an MFA from the University of Victoria and was a finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers in 2011. The Quiet is her first poetry collection and, despite its name, it's the kind of debut that refuses to go unheard. Like John Cage's 4'33'', The Quiet reveals the music in 'the quiet' and reminds us how full of sound silence really is. In Turza's book, 'the quiet' is represented by the lengthy white spaces on each page. They remind us, like the silence, to reflect on what has been and, more importantly, what has not been said. Beyond her beautiful use of language and her tranquil cadence, Turza proves herself to be a great writer through her poetic illustration of what it means to read between the lines. "The rain's blether grows louder, a gallop of hard consonants Levin feels he could understand, were it slower—" In a time of overwhelming noise and urgency, Turza focuses on life's offbeats, on the beauty in 'the quiet.'
Prologue for the Age of Consequence
House of Anansi Press
Garth Martens won the 2011 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. He serves on the editorial board for The Malahat Review and works on a construction site in Kelowna, BC. His experience with machinery features prominently in his debut poetry collection Prologue for the Age of Consequence. While Martens' writing has many merits, one of the most engaging aspects of his poetry is his characters. As the men in northern Alberta construct a tower, Martens constructs their lives, piecing together their personalities, their flaws, interests, dreams, and disappointments, into an incredible collage of humanity. Martens' poems are dense, prose-y but inherently poetic. Like The Quiet they require careful contemplation and a detachment from the overwhelming noise of the everyday. "The wave, at large, engulfed them each with silence." In Prologue for the Age of Consequence, addiction, desire, and mythology all come together to show us that the things we worship are also often the things that can destroy us. But we continue to build what we can out of the materials we have at hand, as Martens does so magnificently with his words.
Nikki Reimer is a Calgary-based freelance writer and editor, creative writer, designer, artist and creative problem solver. Her first poetry collection ([sic]) was published by Frontenac House in 2010. Downverse is her second poetry book. Reimer's writing is comedic, current, and critical. In Downverse she uses all kinds of writing, from erasure poetry to a list of monthly expenses, to defamiliarize the language of new/ social media. The book, with all its noise, hashtags and commotion, is the exact opposite of Turza's The Quiet, although they are both fighting towards a similar poetic declaration. "we're post-post avant-avant. we are the new/ moderns. we.gain.weight.in.the______" Downverse is the guide to modern absurdity, where everyone is talking and no one is heard, and where poetry seems to be inseparable from commercialization.