"A Poem about Blackboy’s Horse" by Bertrand Bickersteth
Phil Hall’s new book, The Ash Bell, undoes me. His work makes me read below the below and out the corners of my eyes. Drops me down under understanding, echos of words like backlit other words waving their fronds. I read the word “worship" and see “warship." It's blunt, raw, funny and true. Cumulative. I do not understand, I stand under, happily.
The literary lives of us rural folks can be overly shaped by whatever happened to be available at our local library, or that one random anthology we found in a "free books" pile. I was extremely fortunate to have that anthology be The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, edited by Donald Allen. What a revelation! Kenneth Koch's sense of play, Frank O'Hara's "I do this I do that" poems, the whole New York School in general -- the Beats -- it just blew my head off. I had no idea you could do this stuff.
“My parents peeled me like a fig. I was a different fruit each day.” Is the self the me, an object created, or the I, with self-knowledge and even agency over its own definition? In Métissée, ably rendered in English by translator and scholar Rebecca L. Thompson as Little Wet-Paint Girl, Québec poet Ouanessa Younsi brings multiple possible selves together in a collision complicated by mixed cultural heritage.
Daniel Sarah Karasik’s Plenitude is not only a cogent articulation of trans experience, identity and rights, but an incisive systemic reading — often a socialist or Marxist reading — with several side trips to consider Jewishness. By situating gender, queerness and identity within the larger context they bring a broader analysis of how culture can subsume and often commodify the personal. And because this is poetry, we’re aware that the tropes of lyric positionality (including the lyric “I”) are also implicated.
While considering my sprawl of notes from my reading, and re-reading, of Erin Robinsong’s second full-length book of poetry, Wet Dream, and wondering how to begin this review, I called to mind the following quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English), “now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was!”
The current geo-political events in Ukraine make the release of Gary Geddes’ latest collection, (The Ventriloquist: Poetic Narratives from the Womb of War (Rock’s Mills Press), all the more timely. Geddes has gathered in this one collection four previous books on the theme of war: Letter of the Master of Horse (1973), War & Other Measures (1976), The Terracotta Army (1984), and Hong Kong Poems (1987).
David Ly’s latest poetry collection is an exacting, linguistic dreamscape that reveals a hand-wringing insistence on getting it right: not by way of laboured, elaborate plots or pointed specificity, but instead by whittling and chipping at the edges of crumbling marble to uncover the it he imagines lying recumbent underneath.