Feb 6, 2017
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.