Moon’s movement offers elegy, critique

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In Lunar Tides (Book*hug, 127 pages, $20), Shannon Webb-Campbell attends to the subtle shiftings of the moon and the Atlantic Ocean to structure a collection that leans into both elegy and critique.

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In Lunar Tides (Book*hug, 127 pages, $20), Shannon Webb-Campbell attends to the subtle shiftings of the moon and the Atlantic Ocean to structure a collection that leans into both elegy and critique.

The griefs that suffuse Lunar Tides are manifold — from the death of the speaker’s mother through the generational and cultural losses caused by colonialism: “I can’t speak my language/ hold a drum or sing myself home/ without crying.”

The structure of the collection, following as it does the waxing and waning of the moon, the ebbing and flowing of the tide, both reinforces the ongoing harm of colonial and capitalist ways of thinking, ways that insist on a tidy and timely resolution of grief and, later in the collection, assembles an alternative vision: “Learn that loss has its own time, and you are a small animal reeling.”

While the movement of the collection reaches tentatively toward resolution, that resolution remains contingent: “Maybe Grandmother knows where you are, but we don’t know where she is either. Sometimes I find her in the line between the horizon and the sea. Other times chopping up onions or peeling carrots. Some of us find pockets of her between ourselves. We’re stuck here with the vegetable peels, halfway to truth.”

● ● ●

“I am fortunate to be aware of my vivisection/ by the invisible hand of the market,” Tolu Oloruntoba opens the final section of Each One a Furnace (McClelland & Stewart, 96 pages, $20). Following his Governor General’s Award-winning The Junta of Happenstance, Each One a Furnace is an expansive, powerful collection, animated by a combination of analytical keenness, rage and vulnerability.

Oloruntoba uses the migration of finches as a structuring metaphor for the tensions that underpin life in the African diaspora. In Waxbill/ The Death of David Oluwale, the word “trembling” bridges between the Black-rumped Waxbill and David Oluwale, whose death at the hands of two Leeds policemen marks the first time British police officers were successfully prosecuted for their involvement in the death of a Black person. “2. The collective for a group of them, is a trembling;/ 3. A trembling:/ • David Oluwale in the hull of the SS Temple Bar.”

Once the connection is made, the lines that precede it acquire a sinister undertone. Now the question of conservation, the designation “not a focus of species conservation. / They do not qualify as threatened” comes to apply to the way European and North American societies and institutions view Black people.

● ● ●

Patrick Lane’s posthumous collection, The Quiet in Me (Harbour Publishing, 64 pages, $19), holds the poet-speaker’s imminent mortality in his gaze.

The collection was edited and introduced by Victoria poet Lorna Crozier, Lane’s long-time spouse. Her introduction is a moving contextualization of Lane’s public legacy and the intimacy of their partnership. These poems, and the process of editing them, she writes, became the “final dialogue about poetry we would have, his voice in the poems stretching across the months of his absence.”

In these poems, Lane inhabits the porous boundary between life and death. In the title poem, for example, the speaker anticipates his death in the context of the way he has lived his life. The sense of peace is carried throughout the poem by Lane’s use of the long line and his deliberate pacing.

The speaker finds the quiet named in its title by allowing his past, “lifting a body to bed and dead, and dead/ the weight of him,” to carry forward from that dead friend to the stranger he helps into his wheelchair in the present to past lovers into an anticipated future, where “in the sleep that follows love, all the arms I’ve held, such arms as will hold me.”

Melanie Brannagan Frederiksen is a Winnipeg writer and critic.

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