Friesen poems ask questions of hidden god


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Winnipeg expatriate Patrick Friesen, who now lives on Vancouver Island, and whose earlier book The Shunning was recently adapted by Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, has returned to the page with Jumping in the Asylum (Quattro, 60 pages, $17).

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2011 (4091 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg expatriate Patrick Friesen, who now lives on Vancouver Island, and whose earlier book The Shunning was recently adapted by Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, has returned to the page with Jumping in the Asylum (Quattro, 60 pages, $17).

Friesen’s signature is the use of long, lyrical lines, fraught with tension. His dark eye reports that “the work of crows is sometimes the work of murder but always the work of witness and last rites,” and the collection emphasizes living and honing the spirit as forms of work.

Friesen’s poems sometimes resemble difficult prayers, as he asks “let fall rain the broken bread and alcohol of god let fall daily bread prayer the unsayable you must leave for good.”

Patrick Friesen

The poems are notable for the richness of Friesen’s imagery, but also for the questions that they ask some hidden god: “where are the histories of those who live in dreams those walking toward graves no one will visit?”

— — —

Winnipeg’s Sally Ito takes a more conventional approach to matters of faith in Alert to Glory (Turnstone, 80 pages, $17). Ito asks to be alert “to sun-break and water-burst, to land-ho and pinnacle reach / to shimmer shine of light on wave, of moon glow on broken glass.” She offers a vision of the poem as a site of meditation, not unlike Friesen, although more content and secure in her faith.

Where Friesen sees a world of broken things, Ito notes, “Those who find another use for broken things / are saints.” At times, however, she seems to channel Friesen’s angst: “Everything is pain, even the green liveliness / that afflicts the bones in spring.”

— — —

Hamilton-based Amanda Jernigan takes a more secular approach in Groundwork (Biblioasis, 62 pages, $18). She offers poems on the biblical myth of Eden and the Greek myths of Homer alongside poems on archeology and excavation.

Thus, Jernigan interprets the founding stories of western civilization and the process of interpretation itself, noting that “Beneath each Troy there is / another.”

In this impressive debut, “The sky becomes a great blue gong / struck by the sun each hour.” Copper bracelets and bells jostle “Nintendo sets and painted china.”

The poem Islands re-imagines Homer’s Odyssey as a series of dreams-within-dreams, and Odysseus’s voyages as awakenings. Jernigan tempts with sparse, simple lines. What the Sirens Said reads, in its entirety, “Come closer and I’ll tell you.”

— — —

Literature overtakes religion in Calgarian Derek Beaulieu’s Seen of the Crime (Snare, 70 pages, $12), a collection of essays that “survey the radical edges of Canadian and international poetry.” Beaulieu is best-known for his visual poetry, but in recent years has begun to branch out into other areas, remaking genres as he goes.

He offers mini-essays, writing intelligently and passionately about a novel composed entirely of questions (Gold Fools by Gilbert Sorrentino), a collation of patient responses to psychology’s inkblot tests (The Inkblot Record by Dan Farrell), a transcription of every movement a poet’s body made in a day (Fidget by Kenneth Goldsmith), and a temporary store (Rob’s Word Shop) where poet Robert Fitterman wrote and sold to customers any words they demanded.

Beaulieu describes, analyzes and critiques such disparate and complex works in mere paragraphs or pages. His core contention is that “Writers that emphasize the classical and humanist definitions of poetry without considering the work being done in alternative forms of writing do little to further the writing of poetry as they offer only what is most palatable to the most conservative of audiences.”

Seen of the Crime proves that the ideas that underlie these alternative poetries can be discussed with passion and clarity.


Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball’s most recent book is Clockfire, poems about plays that are impossible to produce.


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