A pleasant continuity inhabits these poems — like a snowball rolling downhill, collecting and growing. Themes and explicit notions resurface frequently, often deliberately, but sometimes surreptitiously.
When you catch those veiled recurrences, it’s like Elizabeth Robinson is giving you a knowing wink — you’re in on her scheme. She even drops in round-about references to her methods: “The question is how one can pick up a process and continue it after / an interruption. If that is even possible.”
Robinson’s tone is reliably confessional and conversational. Most of this reads like a journal — poems are titled “Day 1,” “Day 2,” etc. — though it often comes across as a letter. She’s directly addressing a particular person that she’s imagining reading it.
Structurally, these poems are succinct. They consist of small stanzas that are usually no more than one to three lines. There’s little need for embellishment; Robinson’s phrases read like they have weight behind them — like she’s close to uncovering something profound.
She also possesses some inexplicable means of drawing investment out of a reader. In short order, you begin to care about her experiences. The final poem, “Unnumbered days later,” works like the epilogue of a film, when you’re shown — for your own peace of mind — that after the trials and tribulations, lessons were learned and everything worked out.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Elizabeth Robinson's Simplified Holy Passage (2015) in Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the review here. This is actually the second review of Robinson's chapbook, after Pearl Pirie wrote about such here. As Bryson writes:
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Pete Smith's A New Love/ An Aching Stone (2016) in Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the review here. As he writes:
A New Love/ An Aching Stone is, contextually, pretty clear from the get go. The cover introduces the text as a somewhat fractured spirit: partial photos of two men are arranged side by side, yet separated by a triangular wedge of negative space. Their half-smiles align but do not meet in the middle. The dialogue is frustrated and I haven’t even flipped the thing open yet. The title page reads: “A double-cento out of Yehuda Amichai Mahmoud Darwish.” The former was an Israeli poet and the latter, a Palestinian poet. And so, the text’s political backbone surfaces. Throughout the text, Pete Smith examines the correspondence of Israeli-Palestinian art and identity with a whisper of futility. “Poetry isn’t poetry / because of the wall. / Which exile do you want?”
A New Love/ An Aching Stone is quick to set up circumstantial boundaries. But there is plenty of poetic ambiguity throughout, rest assured. The speaker laments the loss of identity both individual and collective: “The dust is my conscious, the stone my subconscious: / a heavenly horizon … and a hidden chasm / which wasn’t even good for thorns and thistles / in the emigrant’s night.” History is clouded by dust and dark convictions: “Perhaps I’ve been here once before, / the road of invaders who want to renovate their history, / make again a new love / over an aching stone.”
Pete Smith’s writing is strong and produces a clear poetic vision — a vision of fragmented political and cultural histories. And, in doing so, A New Love/ An Aching Stone remains wholeheartedly empathetic.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
derek beaulieu has some new work up at NewPoetry, and he is interviewed over at the Chaudiere Books blog for The Calgary Renaissance (Chaudiere Books, 2016); Gary Barwin gets a nice write-up in Maclean's; Ben Ladouceur has a new poem up at Crap Orgasm; Braydon Beaulieu is also interviewed over at the Chaudiere Books blog for The Calgary Renaissance; and rob mclennan and Stephen Brockwell read November 8 at Edmonton's Olive Reading Series.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
My short piece, "How to keep a small chapbook press alive for twenty-three years (a primer," is now online at Open Book. And, have you thought of subscribing?
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Robert Hogg's from Lamentations (2016) in Broken Pencil. Thanks much! This is actually the second review of Hogg's chapbook, after Rebecca Anne Banks reviewed such over at Subterranean Blue Poetry. You can see Bryson's review here. As he writes:
You need to be a few pages deep in this collection before its title begins to make sense. It opens with a two-page freestyle that pays tribute to the late Western actor, Roy Rogers, then moves to a childhood memory of Robert Hogg sitting atop a horse himself. The mood is predominantly upbeat until Hogg drops the lines “who took this photo / probably mom dead now,” and the material begins its shift into the advertised lamentation direction.
That Rogers elegy aside, Hogg’s lines are rarely more than two to four words long, and his phrases are continually interrupted. The stilted reading that results is almost like someone trying to talk through sobs — getting out a few words with each breath. This brevity, as well as Hogg’s plainspoken approach, is reminiscent of award-winning British Columbia poet, Tom Wayman. Where Wayman tackled the toll of work, Hogg examines the weight of death and loss.
The best poems in this collection recognize loss while celebrating (sometimes flippantly) what comes before and after. The stand-out piece, “Summer of Sixty- three,” sees Hogg longing for estranged friends and the good old days, when he and his comrades — smoking joints and listening to jazz records — “expected / to die the next day get busted or live forever talking poetry.”
Monday, October 17, 2016
shiftlessput a licking outon that assto heat it upput a licking outon that assto cool it offwho the fucktrust a manswitch a lick like that
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy
A native of Jones County, Miss., Buck Downs’ previous books include Tachycardia (Edge Books) and You Can’t Get Enough of What You Really Don’t Need (Private Edition). He works as an executive writing coach and lives in Washington, DC. Other work appears in issue #11 of Touch the Donkey.
To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Scott Bryson reviews Renée Sarojini Saklikar's After the Battle of Kingsway, the bees (2016) in Broken Pencil
Renée Sarojini Saklikar's After the Battle of Kingsway, the bees (2016) in Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the review here. As he writes:
There has never been a Battle of Kingsway, in a literal sense. Kingsway, in this case, is a thoroughfare that runs through Vancouver and Burnaby, and Renée Sarojini Saklikar — Surrey, British Columbia’s first Poet Laureate — has drafted a virtual battle along its length (plus, there are bees).
These poems all appear to be connected and loosely plotted. There are recurring and curiously-named characters — (A)bigail, the INVESTIGATOR is one such example — but their function isn’t always clear; this is not transparent verse. While the events depicted are open to interpretation, it’s evident that Saklikar is draping a historical veil over modern concerns, such as community housing issues and protests.
What this collection portrays more than anything, is the streets and parklands of Vancouver. Significant time is spent dissecting plant and animal life — including several varieties of bee — but the talk on wildlife reliably gives way to urban locales: tennis courts; a lab; shops on Robson Street.
After the Battle of Kingsway, the bees is excerpted from thecanadaproject, Saklikar’s “life- long poem chronicle about place, identity, language.” It’s an effortless read — her style is studious but smooth — though comprehension of the bigger picture will require ongoing contemplation.