All posts filed under: Reviews – Poetry

Review of Randy Lundy’s “Field Notes for the Self”

by Micheline Maylor Field Notes for the Self by Randy Lundy University of Regina Press (2020) ISBN 9780889776937 Field Notes for the Self, Randy Lundy’s fifth full-length collection, reaches towards that which is just beyond reach. Poetic insight comes frequently and with attentive rich language, musical alliteration, and conscientiousness to both embodied and disembodied detail. In this way, the collection strikes an otherworldly tone saturated with aboriginal and Eastern spiritual sensibilities. Lundy grapples with landscape, memory, dream, the contrasted paradox of individuality and wholeness, where the body is a translator of the landscape itself, such as in “Ceremony”: “A man should not dream of what is dead, or he might never wake; he might walk that path like a vein of silent, silver ore, winding its way among the dark roots of trees.” (19) Lundy resides within the vicinity of the unnamed, with a shapeshifting quality of a veil-walker between the living and the dead, a translator pulling layers of time and space forward and back in wormholes of meaning. His philosophical stance and poetic …

Review of Vanessa Shields’ “Look at Her”

by Sharon Berg Look at Her by Vanessa Shields Black Moss Press (2015) ISBN 978-0-88753-565-9 In Canada, selling 500 copies of a poetry book is considered remarkable. The fact that Vanessa Shields did this between the September 2016 launch of Look at Her and December 2016 is highly unusual. Yet, when you look at the energy this energetic woman put into her book tour, you know she (not the press) pushed the sale of her book until it reached that goal. This is a reward for her efforts, but is it good news for readers? Vanessa Shields is an astute woman who understands her market. Last fall, she organized a series of “launches,” scheduling them in various places she contacted by phone. She then invited authors local to those places to present their work at her book launch in their city or town. She packed her car with a microphone, its stand, and amplifier and then drove all over Southern Ontario. She stayed in the homes of local authors to save on the cost of her …

Review of Rayanne Haines “Stained with the Colours of Sunday Morning”

by Shelley McAneeley Stained with the Colours of Sunday Morning by Rayanne Haines Inanna Publications and Education Inc. (2017) ISBN 978-1-77133-525-6 Tender, sensual and insightful, Rayanne Haines, creates a gentle journey through the complex relationship of mother/daughter and granddaughter with a twist of myth. Adorare Vita Bambina she would say as she kneaded the dough. This is love. (4) The smell of homemade bread emanates on Sunday mornings and fills the lungs with the delicious body memory of love. Haines’ three main characters, mother, daughter, granddaughter travel life’s terrain in poems grounded in ordinary daily moments. Her writing is sensual and rich, you can smell, feel and touch her stories. Haines manages to make every moment palpable. She gently rocks a lullaby of love while her poems thread through trauma and joy. Even though desperation hangs in some poems, it never clobbers, it looms shadowy in corners and disintegrates with tender reflection. Clever phrasing such as, “I was raised to the rhythm of hunger” (5), imparts a subtle paradox of life; the pain of hunger wrapped in the smell of home. Resignation to lust, …

Review of “Writing Menopause” edited by Jane Cawthorne and ED Morin

by Shelley McAneeley Writing Menopause An Anthology of Fiction, Poetry and Creative Nonfiction edited by Jane Cawthorne and ED Morin Inanna Publications and Education Inc. (2017) ISBN 978-1-77133-353-5 What to say or not to say regarding menopause? Cawthorne and Morin’s anthology compiles a melting pot of stories that traverse the emotional landscape of fear, embarrassment, loss, silence, continence, disappointment, divorce, promiscuity, flight, pleads, and humour. It makes me wonder why women share so little of life’s major reproductive events, even amongst themselves. Here is an excerpt of humour that will be sure to make you cringe: …the time she asked me to get slimmer “piss pads” for her because the sticky strip on the wide ones got caught on her hair. “How did it get all the way up to your head,” I’d asked on the phone, and the next day she greeted me at the apartment door with a bladder-leak pad twisted into a bow over her ear. (123-124) Secure in my own anonymity, this book places me safely behind the screen of a confessional where stories spill out pained recollections …

Review of Richard Harrison’s “On Not Losing my Father’s Ashes in the Flood”

by Jannie Edwards On Not Losing my Father’s Ashes in the Flood Richard Harrison Wolsak and Wynn (2016) ISBN 978-1-928088-22-6 There is an invitation, a hospitality in Harrison’s work in his eighth collection. The reader is invited to share the poet’s intimate experience of his father’s life and death, the feared loss, and retrieval, of his father’s ashes in the epic Calgary flood of 2013, and what it means to write, read and recite poetry, to find meaning and purpose in life.   Time and space. Life and death. Expansion and confinement. As the father’s health and memory deteriorate and he is confined to a palliative bed and wheelchair, the poems’ lines spread back and forth like waves that range over a lifetime. In good measure, the hospitality of these poems comes not only from their subject matter but also from these long lines — tiered, indented long lines that are less about creating architectural structures and more about breathlines, about creating space for the reader to inhabit.  In “Small as God,” father and son enjoy …

Review of Cassidy McFadzean’s “Drolleries”

by Micheline Maylor Drolleries by Cassidy McFadzean McClelland & Stewart (2019) ISBN 978-0-77107-317-5 A poetry book should make a promise and an invitation on the opening page. Cassidy McFadzean’s, Drolleries, makes such a promise with an invitation to magick and visceral description. “Forest pine needles formed a false floor / that broke away below me, earth / loosening around the roots / of a rotting log’s hollow chambers.” Rarely does a poetry book do such a job with both world building and specifics. Everyday items such as shower curtains become the theatre for natural reclamation of the body and mythology of the mind. We see this early career poet coming into her own skill set as metaphor maker.  While much of the recent magic fad comes across as twee, McFadzean’s plays with stakes and gruesome witchcraft. A fixation on body provides squeamish satisfaction in poems such as “The Necropants” and “Mood,” poems where the mystical occult becomes firmly rooted in the physical. “The Necropants” follows “Saga” a poem about animal skinning, then describes how wearing …

Review of Tanya Evanson’s “Nouveau Griot”

by Jamal Ali Nouveau Griot by Tanya Evanson Frontenac House (2018) ISBN: 978-1-927823-84-2 Tanya Evanson’s poetry collection, Nouveau Griot, takes readers on a journey into diverse worlds. A griot is a french African word meaning “travelling poet, singer, storyteller, or musician […] to whom supernatural powers are often attributed.”  The poet’s journey with others through the Bolivian Amazon aboard a dugout canoe on the Yacuma River is the subject of “The Invisible World.” The following lines from the second stanza rich in metaphor stun the imagination: “The water, / a pure milk coffee, swallowed us into foam. I placed the lips of my / fingers and the piranha snapped from the river’s glass ceiling, sharp / marine mouths into hand, catfish, minuscule shark. The sky, a woven / cloud. Roots, the scalps of slain indigenous, molten into the fibre, / broken unlike elastic” (12). I revel in Evanson’s praise for the wildlife: “From the canoe, I threw my skin to bless trains of turtles, high red / monkeys, giant white-combed manguari, massive open- mouthed caiman …

Review of Kayla Czaga’s “Dunk Tank”

by Micheline Maylor  Dunk Tank by Kayla Czaga House of Anansi Press (2019) ISBN 978-1-4870-0596-2 The poetry gods claim that a second book is much harder than the first because the bar is set. Both of these spring releases come from poets highly recognized by the LPC’s first book award.  Kayla Czaga’s Dunk Tank is an inventory of the folly of youth as tinted by darkness and surrealism. She manages to capture moments of growing up with the wisdom of a backward glance. The book is a fulsome diary of growing up with all its pitfalls, confusions, and absurdity. The narrator reflects with the honesty of distance and time; such an example comes from “Synchronized Eye-Rolling”: “Oh, you were inept and sweaty / but everything was urgent enough / to be the season finale, every day.” We meet characters who push boundaries and hone the author’s maturity.  Czaga’s job is to then distill the wisdom of these moments into something meaningful and inviting for an outside reader.  And, Czaga does her job well. Embedded throughout the …

Review of Shane Neilson’s “New Brunswick”

by Skylar Kay New Brunswick by Shane Neilson Biblioasis (2019) ISBN 978-192-7823675 Shane Neilson’s New Brunswick forms a story of loss, love, and return, circling around New Brunswick as a province and its history, as well as Neilson’s parents, specifically his mother. As a strange love letter to New Brunswick, it is very specific to the province, and will evoke images, both positive and negative, for anyone familiar with the area and its history. Allusions or references are made to businesses, landmarks, and other facets of life in New Brunswick, as Neilson mentions the COR party, places such as Shediac, and poets such as Alden Nowlan and Eli Mandel. These references are undoubtedly familiar to many from New Brunswick, or at least to Neilson, as there was no perceived need for footnotes to explain the significance of these references, even for vague mentions such as the initials “K.C” in a discussion of corporations. While the poems often still function without immediate knowledge or some quick Googling, I was not made to feel welcomed as an …

Review of “Narrow Bridge” by Barbara Pelman

by Skylar Kay Narrow Bridge by Barbara Pelman Ronsdale Press (2017) ISBN 978-1-55380-508-3 Pelman’s Narrow Bridge is a musical ode to life, aging, acceptance, and rebirth in three parts. The beginning starts the way any good beginning should, with yearning— (wander)lust, and a desire to position oneself in time as well as space. By the time the second section came around, I was overjoyed by the title of the first poem: “Why She Went to Italy.” The second section follows this empowering sense of agency and new-found determination, as the speaker is further revealed to the reader, and perhaps even to herself. Lovers, music, travel, family, loss—all is captured like a beautiful postcard in Pelman’s poetry, inviting readers to stand on these bridges with the speaker. The third section is an affirmation of the speaker, but with seeming doubts until the final poem, “You Could”, which shows that the speaker, indeed, can. The third section also introduces religious topics, as the final pages of the collection become spiritual, almost psalm-like for the speaker as she …