The Vox List: Jake’s Five Favourite Canadian Poetry Titles of 2010
I know there’s three weeks left in the year, but there’s only a dozen or so shopping days til Christmas, and Chanukah is already upon us. So, I’d like to use what little commercial oomph this blog has to state a case for five books that I think of as the best of the year from Vox’s in-house pool of literature (to wit, books of poems written by Canadians). I read beyond that, of course, but I feel like that’s the centre of my reading now. So that’s where I worked from in making this list.
Also, it should be stated that I took a couple books out of consideration on account of sharing an address with their authors. If left to my own devices, I probably would have bumped two of these five collections in favour of Tiny, Frantic, Stronger, by Jeff Latosik, and The Reinvention of the Human Hand, by Paul Vermeersch
It’s kind of a silly list, in the end. Even more so than most lists. For one, it’s entirely made up of first and second collections. This paints the list-maker as something of an ageist fad-hopper. There are veteran authors who put out strong stuff this year (I’m thinking Margaret Christakos and Dionne Brand, among others), but they didn’t quite make it. Maybe I was comparing their new work to their best work, and not comparing it to the other work that came out this year. Unfair, perhaps. Also, I know 2 or 3 of these people personally, which paints me as something of a cliquemaster. Also, it’s only a list of five books, and if I wanted to extend it to ten, I’d cover a lot more aesthetic bases. I had a list of ten, but cut it in half at the last minute. As Popeye said, I yam what I yam. Okay, enough excuses. Here we go, in alphabetical order by title:
Alien, Correspondent, Antony di Nardo, Brick Books
VOX describes it as: Egoless and almost passive in its delivery, seems destined for a beautiful, unfair obscurity. This is the kind of book that makes me glad I have a blog and can publicly suggest things to people. I suggest you read this.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: Your retired uncle who just got back from Borneo and is leaving for Madagascar in the Spring to found a school there.
At the Gates of the Theme Park, Peter Norman, The Mansfield Press
VOX describes it as: Reads like the kind of long-gestated debut collection some bloggers I know (Spoiler alert: It’s a photo of me) wish they had written. Maintains diversity of content, with no real misses to be found.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: The loneliest CBC Radio 2 listener you know.
Bloom, Michael Lista, House of Anansi Press
VOX describes it as: Simultaneously avant garde and old-fashioned. Check that, simultaneously THE MOST avant garde and THE MOST old-fashioned book of the year. So much for the paper tiger of contemporary poetry designations. This kind of book that demands seven more come after it as complimentary or dissenting arguments.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: The engineer in your family who, when you bring up how much you like poetry, makes some half-mumbled wistful reference to enjoying Ted Hughes in high school
Clockfire, Jonathon Ball, Coach House Books
VOX describes it as: High-wire conceptual theatrics that inexplicably don’t get old after ten or twenty pages.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: Your younger sibling who is back from college with the news that s/he is considering transferring into, or out of, the drama program next semester.
[sic], Nikki Reimer, Frontenac Press
VOX describes it as: A rare young poet who can channel the energy given off by her personality into things greater than just MORE personality. Reimer lets it bleed into form, into cadence, into pace. The book wants you to read it cover-to-cover in, like, 30 minutes. A tough trick to pull off.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: That ancillary figure in your life (maybe a video store clerk, or a bartender) who you feel simpatico enough with to want to strike up a more formal friendship.
A pretty groovy year, this 2010. I’d like to know what books I missed. I’m sure there’s a lot of them.