Apr 26, 2016
Cheers to another great month of Snapshots! Davis Plett will be running the Snapshots blog from now on. He's a charming little reviewer, isn't he?
Davis Plett is a Winnipeg-based poet, musician, and theatre artist. Catch him attempting to do all three at once in his upcoming Winnipeg Fringe play, Infidelity.
The World Afloat
The World Afloat is comprised of madcap miniatures, helium-filled vignettes that untether the ordinary from itself and use the mundane as a launch pad for a series bizarre, hilarious, surrealist prose-poem adventures. A large raven spends the night roosting between a wife and her sleepless husband, a distraught speaker who has misplaced their mind “want[s] it back for sentimental reasons,” and posters on telephone poles “are meant to show what [Jesus would] look like if he were alive today and sixty-nine years old and lost. Like practically everyone we know.” Somewhere between a Bradbury-ian infatuation with the fantastical “what if?” and a sonneteer’s commitment to brevity, The World Afloat is a wild hot-air balloon ride drifting over patchwork fields, hovering over each just long enough for some odd detail to reveal itself before floating on.
If The World Afloat took the mundane as its starting place and used it as an imaginative springboard into the fantastical, Tim Lilburn’s 2016 collection The Names approaches a world already in chaos, a universe where Regina is a mystical city inhabited by “Richard-Grendl” and in communication with fourteenth century Paris, where Sara Riel can “see the skeleton of language / inside deer’s bodies and inside pike’s / swim paths,” where a distant relative’s car is mired in “sullen-to-be-matter fixity.” As with most of Lilburn’s work, The Names makes the claim that the world is already haunted by a sense of the fantastical, the eerie, the other-worldly. For Lilburn, it is through desiring to know the source and character of this strange, abiding Other within the ordinary through poetry, through language itself, that the world with all its ecological, ethical, and deeply personal disasters can be made remotely habitable. For Lilburn, the world is always already afloat; poetry is a way to forget our too-easy claims to know it.
All the Gold Hurts My Mouth
Goose Lane Editions
Earnest, direct, sarcastic—Katherine Leyton’s collection is perhaps the most “down to earth” of these three books. That is not to say that it lacks in poetic qualities or depth, but that its feminist politics require a different language than the speculative Farrant or the metaphysical Lilburn. The female body is continually mediated, by photographers (“The woman you’re watching— / What does she look like / […] You like her, I know. / You’ll develop her: / a bit of generosity”), by selfie culture (“I need rousing abstractions of myself”), and by pornography (“Type in girls / and Google pulls up its skirt: // thumbnail upon thumbnail of cunt”). Female representation is problematized and poeticized: “The girl in the paining— / and the one in the magazine— / are, in a way, fucking us, filling us.” And yet, against this tidal force of the male gaze, that fills being, that dictates identity, there stands a bastion of reclaimed words, of self-represented sorrowful, joyful, complex experiences, of parents, families, and lovers. The Mary MacLane epigraph reads, in part, “But before she dies she awakes. There is a pain that goes with it.” To speak, then, to form golden words out of patriarchy, to take this burnished gold into one’s mouth, is to feel a new pain, the pain of an awakening political conscious.