Edited by Amanda Earl, Judith: Women Making Visual Poetry (Timglaset, 256 pages, $43) offers a feast of wide-ranging work. Including 36 women from 21 countries and more than 160 full-colour images alongside interviews, artistic statements and other contextual information, the anthology features a massive amount of excellent and often unique visual work.
Standouts include Astra Papchristodoulou and her sculptural poems, including puzzle-poems, birthday candles, and books made out of bio-resin and words. Mado Reznik’s impressive excerpts from her 30,000 series mourns the victims of Argentina’s last civic-military dictatorship — one of the visual poems is a book that contains pages full of holes, while another features an installation that includes 30,000 hand-knotted threads.
Kate Siklosi’s work threads together the natural and domestic spaces through literally threading words to leaves. Countless other excellent examples abound in this must-have anthology.
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Hell Light Flesh (Palimpsest/Anstruther, 120 pages, $19), by Klara Du Plessis, kicks the sophomore slump down the stairs. A stark, complicated, engrossing meditation on family, discipline, creation and violence, and the way they intertwine and connect through corporal punishment: "straight lines of transcendental / nature shining down in fists."
"Uncanny when you look at art / and actually feel something in your eyes." Du Plessis has a rare ability to intellectually cut apart something without draining the blood out, allowing her an analytical approach that still manages visceral effects: "When the intention is good / it becomes a system, / when the intention is bad it becomes a sin. / Even though this is not remotely true."
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Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Shadow List (Wolsak and Wynn/Buckrider, 80 pages, $18) takes its title from a poem where the speaker considers her list of wishes un-wished for, what she hopes for when hoping for something else. So much of the book mines that space where the speaker orbits something she seems to both want and hates wanting.
Lee is better known as a novelist, and the poems here have a strong sense of vignette, compressed scenes playing out with startling dramatic force. They don’t shy from viciousness or void, offering darkly glimmering gems, like "A—holes and sociopaths, frozen in the sea."
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Undoing Hours, by Selina Boan (Nightwood, 96 pages, $19), struggles with the difficulty of expressing things unfelt. The poems explore growing up disconnected from Indigenous heritage while desiring to unsettle one’s own settler status and attempting to craft a space for kindness despite trauma.
The opening poem proclaims that "i am afraid of getting this life / wrong," while in a later poem the speaker tries to "pull calm from your jacket" when meeting her father. Boan has a strong sense for imagery, as in other poems where a "rat is an exhausted blade" or considering "Our names in each other’s mouths — torched clocks."
Jonathan Ball just won a Manitoba Book Award for his short story collection The Lightning of Possible Storms (Book*hug, 2020). Visit him online at jonathanball.com.