Anatomy poetry sonically stellar
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/08/2017 (2043 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Sylvia Legris’ The Hideous Hidden (New Directions, 114 pages, $21) examines the poetic possibilities of the language of anatomy: “a song of fortitude in twelve intestinal fingerbreadths. / A madrigal of freely moveable joints.”
Saskatoon’s Legris (formerly of Winnipeg) has an exceptional ear for soundplay, all the more impressive since scientific language has a reputation for being clumsy: “uninduct / the gutless vasa brevia, / the ductless gastro-splenic, / the unpopular poppy- / blotto’d opus (nonplussed, chronic, / a surplus lack of omentum).”
“Corpse-candle the worthless remains […] A morbid skyline,” begins one poem — Legris’ subject might be morbid, but her rich, dense lines reward reading and re-reading. Pure sonic pleasures, these muscular poems are a delight to read aloud, tumbling and jumbling in the mouth, all fleshy fun.
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Shirley Camia’s Children Shouldn’t Use Knives And Other Tales (At Bay, 50 pages, $20) reads and looks like a nightmare version of a Shel Silverstein book: “the dawn has a skeleton rattle // winter nags at her young bones / frozen from the blankets of sharp cold // carved blocks of hardened shadows.”
Camia (another former Winnipegger) has partnered with At Bay Press to produce a beautiful hardcover filled with illustrations by Cindy Mochizuki.
They present poems about childhood experience in the guise of a children’s book, but focus on the darker, under-explored aspects of youth: the powerlessness, terror and confusion of encountering the world.
Disturbing but delightful, Camia’s sharp, stark poems unfold crumpled childhood memories and meditate on the beauty of their horror.
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Stephen Cain’s False Friends (BookThug, 112 pages, $18) is the poet’s first full-length collection in over 10 years. A dense, inventive book and, like Legris’, it traffics heavily in alliteration and meaty-sound combinations: “A vow. / Mowing and moaning. / Mountains and microscopic mitochondria. / Solid as ice. / Stabilized by syntax.”
Cain’s poems often employ experimental techniques humorously, as in Sportstalk where Cain rewrites sports interview clichés as quotes on writing: “I gotta stay focused, take it one poem at a time […] I knew what I had to write and I went out there and wrote it.”
Silly on one hand, but puncturing ridiculous myths about artistic inspiration on the other, poems like Sportstalk are fun and clever shifts from Cain’s more rigorous (though often also funny) lines: “Hermetic handbag hazard. / Slippery cycle frayed fabric figures, identical Isaac or apocalyptic Abraham.”
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Molly Peacock’s The Analyst (Biblioasis, 102 pages, $19) considers the author’s relationship with her long-time psychoanalyst (of nearly 40 years), Joan Stein. Peacock’s analyst suffered a devastating stroke and could no longer practise, and their relationship entered a new phase, during which Stein returned to her early passion for painting.
Peacock’s poems meditate on psychoanalysis as a collaborative artistic practice, the therapeutic aspects of art-making and on artistry in general as fundamental to life. Her poems are often casual in tone but rigorous in form.
“I believe in being killed, and I believe in poetry.” There are few better things to believe.
Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.
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