Complex, dark poems glimmer with hope
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/05/2019 (1396 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The title of Natalee Caple’s Love in the Chthulucene (Cthulhucene) (Wolsak & Wynn, 112 pages, $18) plays on Donna Haraway’s idea that environmental disaster will destroy most of the planet’s life and what survives will, without another choice, finally find balance.
Caple balances this (somewhat hopeful?) notion against a darker reference to the H.P. Lovecraft horror monster Cthulhu, an idea Haraway explicitly rejects. Many of Caple’s poems mine this twinned notion of a closeness, even a love, that bears through and is borne out of tragedy.
“I said ‘me too’ to a boy who handed in a suicide note instead of an essay,” she writes in one poem, and in another writes, “I feel sick all the time / I think it’s probably the news.”
But can she (or we) ignore the news? In some cases (as with environmental disaster, or inside of a Lovecraft story), escape is not an option.
Caple offers complicated yet sincere, strange and dark poems that glitter with earned hopefulness in their secret, shadowy hearts.
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The poems in Jason Christie’s book Cursed Objects (Coach House, 112 pages, $20) focus on the alien nature of objects, trying to re-see them in ways we aren’t used to.
The final long poem, a litany for [cursed object]s, captures that uncanny feeling of realizing that a device meant to make our lives easier is ruining our lives — like the smartphone that feeds our anxiety.
If you ever feel like your phone wants you dead, these are the poems for you. And if Jason Christie ever feels like he wants you dead, these are the viruses he’ll use to detonate your phone.
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Michael Redhill’s Twitch Force (Anansi, 94 pages, $20) is the Giller Prize-winning novelist’s first book of poetry in 18 years, but he does not seem rusty, and his best poems proffer a bleak but self-assured humour.
“Note to self: don’t die. // … Bravo, art, / you’re deep, you are, impressive, // has anyone ever told you that? … // Intelligent arthopods of the future will find me / clenched in the corner of an unearthing and date me // to the Confessional Period.”
Elsewhere, Redhill is just as wry, but maybe more into his rye — bleaker and sadder. “Behind every great man // is the woman he once was, the woman / he stood on, the woman he destroyed.” A strong return from an author who never really went away.
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Domenica Martinello’s All Day I Dream About Sirens (Coach House, 104 pages, $20) ponders the cultural presence of mermaids and sirens, whether they appear in ancient Greek myths, as Disney princesses or in the Starbucks logo.
The best parts of the poems, however, appear in between these appearances. Martinello uses her mermaid/siren crowbar to pry her way into all sorts of places that a poem might otherwise be barred entry, diving deep into stellar, stark lines: “What a blessing the death control pills.”
Jonathan Ball’s new book of poetry is available at thenationalgallery.ca.
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