April’s snapshots are brought to you by Molly Cross-Blanchard, and examine facets of family, art, and war through three different subjects: the mother, the father, and the child.
Molly Cross-Blanchard is a Winnipeg poet and playwright who will be pursuing graduate studies this fall. Her work has appeared in CV2 and The Malahat Review.
A Bedroom of Searchlights
In A Bedroom of Searchlights, Joanna M. Weston has interwoven violent notions of wartime in Britain with vibrant images of nature in order to elegize her mother, a diametrical woman, who “melts Neapolitan / between red lips” while the speaker merely “tongue(s) / plain vanilla.” The way Weston has interspersed the imagery throughout these poems mimics a speckling – or spattering – of paint on canvas, paying homage to the Mother’s hobby of choice. There is a deep admiration here for the type of woman who channels her rage against a disloyal husband and an unstable nation, allowing her anguish to “flower on canvas / as scarlet tulips.”
On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood
Wolsak & Wynn
These poems take place after the dinosaur extinction, after World War II, after 9/11, after Saddam’s execution, after the Alberta flood of 2013, after the ashes were found “in a box of books... above the waterline.” They have a history – lived and imagined – a backdrop of tragedy and poetry which Harrison seems to present as one in the same, “as if downstream / was another word for heaven.” Using humour, candid voice, and the quirky unpacking of everyday conventions and concepts, On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood explores the relationship between father and son, father and dementia, and father and art. The speaker holds his father’s memory out and up, studying with reverence “the beauty / of a man who found beauty everywhere but in himself.”
Tell Them It Was Mozart
In Tell Them It Was Mozart,Angeline Schellenberg offers readers an honest delving-into motherhood, into the feelings of guilt, of wanting to run away, wanting to “slap,” wanting to abandon; but also feelings of absolute and all-consuming love, an “ultraviolet awe.” The speaker has coined her two children “The Diminutive Professor” and “The Imaginative Child” after their particular characteristics, which the speaker finds both magnificent and paralyzing in their own rights. She explores ideas of motherly expectation, judgement, and self-preservation in the face of words like “Asperger's,” “genetics,” and “diagnosis.” This whirlwind collection of mistakes and triumphs, of flushing campground toilets with gusto, reminds readers that no two encounters with parenthood are the same; “There is no sin in the stumble to surrender.”
February’s snapshots come to you through memories of lives lived, explorations into the nebulous interactions that shaped yesterday and which, in turn, help shape tomorrow with the ultimate hope that this time we’ll do better and the valid concern that we may not. Brought to you by emerging Winnipeg poet Perry Reimer.
book of short sentences
As Matrix’s David Barrick notes, alice burdick focuses “on the sound and spark of her language,” indeed, frequently, in book of short sentences, she plays with the sounds of words, questioning the connections between words that sound alike, but share no morphemes. Much of this collection is preoccupied with the way everything is fragmented yet connected, but our modern culture reduces the world to its fragments, treating it like a city for tourists, where we only want to “take/ photos of the world; let’s not live/ here.” And though the speaker seems ambivalent when she says “look back or don’t, it doesn’t matter. The/ meaning is in propulsion and going on,” she urges us to not forget, “don’t forget” the way two bodies meet in acts of desire, but also “don’t forget being along/ and investing in instruments of pleasure.” We must remember those traces of our past that helped create the person we are today, remember that we are a “human vessel in which we carry pain, memory, joy, and existential bewilderment” and even though we may reject the systems imposed upon us in our youth, we must not reject how those systems also helped to shape us.
Richard Osler’s Hyaena Season is also highly preoccupied with memory, spending much of its time navigating a remembered life with the speaker’s father, where past blends with present and love is repeatedly compared to tools – things that have the power to sculpt and build, but things which also have the power to maim and shatter. And unlike the wooden heart in “Plane Truths,” which the father molds with ease, the hearts of the speaker and his sister are not so easy for the father to shape. He is better suited to the practical work where he can “feel/ how smoothly hands move over wood,” but when it comes to the abstract world of words and caring the father proves inept. But Osler doesn’t spend the entire collection on the complicated love of a father; in “Long Way Home,” he slips into the unassuming caring of a lover who wants you to “Burden me./ We never know the time/ we have left./ Say it all,” a sentiment which rings back into each poem about the speaker’s relationship with his father. In the third section of the collection, Osler embarks with the reader on an international tour, spending much time in post-genocide Rwanda where the speaker asks, “How can he hope to understand 800,000 dead?” Unfortunately, like when the speaker wonders “how long love lasts in a grave,” this collection, a heartfelt exploration of love and a poet’s place in the world, offers no simple answers.
The Duende of Tether Ball
Tim Bowling’s The Duende of Tetherball, likewise deals with memory and, like Hyaena Season, also deals with what it means to be a father, albeit from the perspective of a father raising his young. Bowling’s speaker is ever concerned by how his fatherhood will shape his children, hoping to leave space for them to grow into themselves, noting that “it is a crime to command life.” Beyond this concern with his own ability to nurture, is the broader concern “that the culture/ lies about youth to get even for losing it.” And it is this adulthood lament that runs through many of the poems, the apprehension that we, as the generation that fosters today’s youth, are bringing up generations who, instead of asking have I “encouraged the heart from the nest”? ask “Have you done all you could/ to pay down the mortgage/ you took out/ on who you thought you’d be/ ten thousand recess bells ago?” This is a collection that interrogates the motives of parenthood, understands the absolute weight of life, but urges, nonetheless, that by the time you “finally never get up at all/ your eyes full, not with pain – no –/ but with every singular inessential/ second you had your children as children in your life,” you’ll be able to look back with fulfillment.
This month’s Snapshots are brought to you by three young Indigenous Canadian poets reviewing collections of Indigenous Canadian poetry (including not one but TWO takes on Rosanna Deerchild’s calling down the sky. Many thanks to our guest reviewers Molly Cross-Blanchard, Jordyn Pepin, and Joshua Whitehead.
Talking to the Diaspora
From the front cover detail to the perfect placement of a single letter, Maracle’s latest work of poetry is like no other. An artistic experience which envelops you, takes you on the journey of reclamation of language and finding the strength to overcome intergenerational trauma. Peppered throughout with familiar motifs of indigeneity, reading Maracle’s piece feels like a long, warm hug from Kokum. Including subjects ranging from the Oka crisis, MMIWG and the Gaza war - what resonates loudest is the healing process following these atrocities. Maracle’s piece sends hope to postcolonial Indigenous groups feeling uncertainty in retrieving what was once forcibly taken away. Ultimately, Talking to the Diaspora serves as a landscape drawing parallels between the stars of oppression, creating a constellation connecting the struggle of Indigenous groups worldwide.
Jordyn Pepin is a two-spirit Anishinaabe person from Sagkeeng First Nation. They are currently in their first year studies at the University of Manitoba. Jordyn hopes to become fluent in Anishinaabemowin and help other youth find strength in learning their language.
calling down the sky
Canadian Aboriginal Voices
“i would name her / tallest pine tree woman” says the speaker of her “mama,” a survivor of residential school on the Northern prairies. Throughout this poignant collection, Rosanna Deerchild shows us—through two distinct voices, a mother and daughter, a victim and witness—that survivor can be a loaded word, full of overestimations. A survivor feels the trauma in their “ruler broken bones,” in “the broken lines” of their “body that can never forget.” She has presented a narrative that is familiar to many of us, in such a way that we must viscerally feel “the silent violence,” but also the turning “toward home,” the breaking open of “a new day.” Deerchild’s economic use of line and stanza allows for a rich duplicity of language: “their long perfect braids / a measure of seasons / umbilical cord to mama / earth / a map back home / cut away.” This collection offers a quintessential depiction of not only the generational echoing of hurt (in its every manifestation) caused by residential school abuse, but also the exceptional strength that is cultivated because of it.
Molly Cross-Blanchard is a Metis writer attending her final year at the University of Winnipeg, and is currently drowning in grad school application paperwork. Her poetry is forthcoming in CV2 and The Malahat Review.
calling down the sky
Canadian Aboriginal Voices
There is a “a crack in her bone memory,” Rosanna Deerchild writes of her mother, “that is felt for generations”. Deerchild’s calling down the sky is an elegy of recuperation, preservation, resurgence. And I deploy the term elegy to not only point to its lamentation for the dead—for it is surely full of ghosts—but also for its musicality, for its singing to and for life. As the speaker of Deerchild’s book reminds us, “everyone wants to know / how a half-deaf girl / makes it out alive,” to which she answers: “it was dose two little birds eh / dey sang me free”. calling down the sky is a serious reflection and interpolation of settler colonialism in Canada, its felt effects, its embodied affects, and its longevity through blood and memories. It is an archive that is told through story; or, as Deerchild writes, it is a picture book “that do[es] not exist,” a “gift of memories” that are bundled together like medicine. At the same time, it is a lesson in survivance, a methodology of resilience that posits Indigenous feminisms as the nexus of strength, a constellation of stubborn bones that defy, bones that will not allow even “the mother of God” to “scrape the Cree / from [them]”.
Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit member of Peguis First Nation on Treaty 1 territory. He is currently studying at the University of Calgary for a Ph.D. in Indigenous Literatures in Cultures.