Jun 5, 2017
June’s snapshots are brought to you by three incredible women writers who have a lot to say about sex, life around us, and life inside us.
If there were a genre devoted to “Erotic Cultural Criticism,” #IndianLovePoems would take the cake, or the “bannock and butter.” Tenille K. Campbell has written a collection that melds sex and tradition, the erotic and the ritual. The speaker, a Dene woman with a laugh that can be “heard across bingo halls,” is unabashedly promiscuous, sampling men from all walks of life: the “hockey players,” the “John Smith(s),” the “Saulteaux warrior(s),” the “marrying kind,” and the “two-headed sea-snake” men who “belong to the water.” At times, the speaker approaches sex as a means of regaining cultural agency, an erogenous decolonization of sorts. In one poem, she rides a white man and refers to him as “conquered goods,” flipping the colonial narrative on its head, so to speak. The collection is ripe with thick tongues and lips and thighs, sensual body parts that take up space in the best possible way. But there is also love here, love that is rooted somewhere deeper than the short-form text messages and “winky faces” of romance in 2017. It is “sweet and flirty and hot as fuck / indigenous love.”
What the Soul Doesn't Want
Lorna Crozier has gifted us with a sixteenth collection of poetry, a striking addition to an already remarkable repertoire. What the Soul Doesn’t Want outlines not necessarily a narrative, but a feeling, a perspective through which to view the natural world. In this collection, an eggplant is a “Martian heart,” a fly is “closer to heaven / than we are,” and a cockroach is a loving mother of thirty-three. Crozier coaxes out of us the thoughts we know to be true, but had never consciously considered, like the notion that the soul doesn’t want “wine wrung from turnips” but might in fact tolerate “a rat mother,” or a “leather collar / that reeks of goat.” These poems relax into themselves and each other, allowing for an easy journey through the language of Crozier’s poetic mind. She doesn’t shy away from the words that unsettle, the ones that make us squirm, like “crap,” and “cunt,” and yes, even “fart,” as the cockroaches so often do. Above all else, these poems are chalk full of vibrant, animate life.
This collection is tactile, in every sense of the word. In Charm, Christine McNair toys with concepts of creationism: of books, of violins, of thicker skins, and of infants. She teaches us about “the futility of metal objects” and to “believe in stitches” because they’re “quaint.” Alliteration and assonance are the technical superstars of this work; the poems are pleasing to all of the senses, but to the tongue especially. For instance: “fingers tighten in lulls ears / say: mine mine minion / miniature minaret tower.” The themes McNair seems to be working with are those of hand-work, of violence where there should be none (“warlove”), and of being a woman – in the rawest of ways – in a world that is not necessarily built for us. This collection gives readers a healthy handful of delicious new words to add to their own lexicons: “platysma,” “pollinia,” “pleurisy,” and “patina,” to name a few. Charm is carefully crafted, stitched together just-so in a way that is not necessarily simple, but oh so satisfying and utterly engaging.