A book I was thoroughly taken with this year was Dominique Bernier-Cormier's poetry collection Entre Rive and Shore. As in his excellent first book, Correspondent, Bernier-Cormier draws together the micro-politics of his family and the macro-politics of world history to great emotional effect.
When I read Lisa Jarnot, it makes me want to write. So, given my frequent creative slumps, I keep Lisa’s collections close to my writing desk. I love all of them, but Ring of Fire is perhaps my favourite. It’s the kind of book you can either open up anywhere and plunge into for two minutes, or let yourself become engrossed, and reread the whole thing.
"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!”