Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Readers invited to text author in rumination on loneliness

  • Print

In The Loneliness Machine (Insomniac, 94 pages, $17), Calgary's Aaron Giovannone both plays and parodies the detached, suffering artist. "I am part of the problem / because I love my new cell phone. / If you send me a text message, / my face will light up" -- Giovannone then includes his real phone number. You can really text it, but if you do, have you two truly connected?

The phone in Giovannone's poems operates as a metaphor for poetry itself -- a thing that stands between him and his readers that makes possible and mediates their connection, but around which exists an economy that structures these connections so they don't satisfy. Elsewhere, Giovannone dispenses with the metaphor: "What's your plan tonight, guys? / Loneliness? / Poetry and loneliness?" Reading the book in the evening confirms that this is indeed your plan. A playful, mournful, fun and intelligent debut.


Toronto's Glen Downie, a former Winnipegger, sculpts found text into the poems of Monkey Soap (Mansfield, 80 pages, $17). In one section, Downie unearths gems of dialogue from film noir movies: "The next person that says Merry Christmas to me / I'll kill them." Elsewhere, sources are stranger and sentiments less silly: "All men are hungry / They always have been."

Downie has an unfortunate tendency to flatten his poems through titles that emphasize one meaning over another in a way that often limits the poem's depth. Mostly, though, Downie twists lines well through careful choices and contrasts: "It will be more agreeable [...] / to have a cat named Blackberry / now that men have decided / to live by the sword again." Since the word Blackberry now alludes to a technology product, Downie folds a number of complex possible meanings into what might otherwise seem a simplistic contrast. At his best, Downie thrills with unexpected turns.


In Tether (Seraphim, 90 pages, $17), Minnedosa's Laurelyn Whitt sets a careful pace through elegant structures while feeling casual and conversational. Poems often end by returning to a previous image, with a sudden, newfound clarity, and easy-to-miss tangles in their construction.

Describing an empty, "child-abandoned" playground, Whitt writes: "A blue swing yaws in the breeze; / no one sees this. It is emptier now. / Frost seals every surface. A dog / runs by, as though someone calls." It's easy to miss "no one sees this." What about the speaker? Has the empty swing become "emptier" by becoming a poetic object? Aside from some prose inclusions, which are weak but few, Tether displays Whitt's stunning talent for images that possess both clarity and depth.


Cambridge's Frank Bidart focuses on the poetic standards of sex, art, and death in Metaphysical Dog (Anansi, 114 pages, $20), but with a verve that belies their overuse. Bidart accomplishes this through sheer ruthlessness. "Your body will be added to the bodies that piled up make the structures of the world" -- is there a poetic truth more blunt and brutal than this?

Once Bidart drops a concrete, clear statement into a poem, you can be sure it will blossom into an abstract, metaphysical concept -- yet knowing this can't prepare you for what comes. Bidart has something to teach us through this powerful and resplendent collection: you must go to the end of the idea. You can't shy away from the nightmare the poem wants to be.

Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball will launch his new book, John Paizs's Crime Wave (University of Toronto Press), at Cinematheque on Feb. 28, featuring a film screening and free admission.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 G6


Updated on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 8:34 AM CST: Tweaks formatting.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Dan Lett talks to the ‘conscience of the electorate’ on federal budget day

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.
  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


How do you feel about the federal budget?

View Results

Ads by Google