Not bad so far, eh?
I wonder if I’m the only reader of Canadian poetry who has found this spring’s offerings thusfar above par. I’ve digested 3/4 the M&S list, half the Anansi, and all but one Coach House title, plus a scattering of volumes from other presses, and I’m thinking it’s a pretty good year at this point.
Some reading notes (A note on the notes: They’re notes. Please note this if they are full of half-formed thoughts and poorly presented. Also, it’s 6am as I write this. Keep that in mind, too. Haters.)
Ossuaries/Dionne Brand: Man, that first poem is incredible. It’s rare for a major stylistic tic to take that long to make itself apparent, and still to feel that natural. I’m not going to say what it is, as I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but hot damn, that first piece kills for nine whole pages, and does so without feeling like some Oulipo contrivance. It feels like the natural way the poem should be written. I’m not sure how I feel about the vocal modulations in the rest of the poem; the introduction of an “other” speaker that’s presented as a sentient character separate from Brand’s own voice, but is quite clearly Brand in disguise, feels occasionally distancing. Countless beautiful multi-sentence phrases in there though. It seems to march and waltz at the same time, something about Brand’s ability to speed and slow language, mapped out over the repeated tercets, is likely responsible. Curious to sit down a little longer and figure out how it works. Either way, if you’re of the mind that Inventory is her best collection (as I am), you’ll surely love it.
Bloom/Michael Lista: Works when it shouldn’t. Is generous and humble when it should come across as standoffish and entitled. Everyone likes this thing… but doesn’t a book like this need enemies? Isn’t that the point? Where the fuck are its enemies? Perhaps I’m not being patient enough…
Neighbour Procedures/Rachel Zolf: I need the physical artifact in-hand…I’ve got these electronic proofs and it’s hard to get into this kind of architectural stuff without a better sense of the frame. Liking it though. It’s hard to say anything new about the Israel/Palestine deathroll, but she manages to.
O Resplandor/Erin Moure: So hard. So. So. So hard. Usually, as I’ve done since I was an infant, I just throw away things that are this hard. Moure’s incredible at *just* ducking around the corner at the last second, though. And she seems willing to gently teach you how to read her, without being dogmatic about it…it’s subtextual. She brings you back. I still only get maybe 60% of it, but I’m comfortable with that number. 60% is a passing grade after all.
The Reinvention of the Human Hand/Paul Vermeersch: Having seen all these poems in vitro, the final product is more about the realization of the object than the introduction of the text. Quite definitely career-best work, though. Lots of awesome poems about famous animals (Koko the Gorilla, Laika the Dog, Porky the Pig…) He really effected the audience at this past week’s Open Stage Night @ Harbourfront. Lots of crying, grateful, listeners.
Rhapsodomancy/kevin mcpherson eckhoff: I picked this one for a Torontoist interview because I wanted to journey as far out of my comfort range as possible. He does visual poetry, very avant garde, all that stuff. He also bought and read my book mid-interview, and turned a lot of my questions back on me. It’ll be out this month some time (the interview), I think it’s a really good one. And a really good book, too. Though what do I know about this stuff?
Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey (Alessandro Porco-ed). Some good essays, but it’s really all about the interview at the end, wherein McGimpsey languidly shuts down all of our national poetry myths, one at a time.
A Good Time Had by All/Meaghan Strimas: Also for an upcoming Torontoist interview. Strimas has likely found her ideal editor in Karen Solie. The work in this book is tougher and chewier than in her first. Likely my favourite book cover of the year.
Acquired, but not yet read: The new John Steffler (it lost a first-poem off to the new D. Brand after I bought both). Some bright and shiny books Palimpsest Press sent me that I haven’t read yet. More, but they are alarming to name all at once. The kind of thing that’d make me call in sick for work.
Out, but not acquired: The new Heighton and Buffam, from Anansi. I’ve heard good things about both but will wait for the launch. The new Bowling or Skibsrud, from Gaspereau; hard to find those sometimes, and really I can only allow myself to buy Gaspereau books from the tiny bookstore in Wolfville, Nova Scotia that gives them their own wall and stocks five or more years of backlist.
Not out yet, but eagerly anticipated: Apparently Dani Couture’s follow-up, Sweet, isn’t coming until late May. Jeff Latosik’s first (Insomniac) comes in May, too, as does fellow Vox Pop amigo Anna Swanson’s (Tightrope). Jim Johnstone’s new one should be good too, even though the cover art sorta looks like the original poster for the Woodstock Festival [Exhibit A.] [Exhibit B.]. And, though slightly off topic, I’m waiting for the official Canadian release date of the new Don Paterson to get it. I know I could have Amazoned that thing, but certain books demand the walk down Queen Street to Type, and that’s one of them.
So, what am I missing? Where else should I direct my meagre paycheque in this annual orgy of poetry book-buying that is the Spring season?