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This article was published 24/11/2018 (460 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Sue Goyette’s Penelope (Gaspereau, 96 pages, $20) meditates on the act of waiting, anchored in the mythology of Penelope, who waited 20 years for her husband Odysseus to return from the Trojan War.
Goyette’s Penelope wakes each day to a new challenge that threatens to draw her away from her long wait, whether set upon by suitors, or the demands of her son, or transformed by grief or by magic.
Goyette paints Penelope as a heroic and active figure at the centre of her own world, rather than the traditional view of her as a passive, peripheral character in Odysseus’s story.
"Are you the lady / who’s been waiting for a husband for a pathetically long time? // I’m asked. Are you f—king kidding me? I reply." A melodic, meditative, clever collection of poems.
Mark Truscott’s Branches (Book*hug, 64 pages, $18) continues his exploration of minimalist poems centring around abstract philosophical considerations.
More engaging than that sounds, Truscott’s poems take sparse concepts and draw them out complexly in simple, plain language.
"I live in the line the // line is alone it is // . . . the beginning // of endless association." This is how poems work, in terms of their dreamy logic of connecting concepts.
Truscott’s lines bristle with thin, cold attention to their own details. Meditative, minimalist and not to be missed.
Matthew Tierney’s Midday at the Super-Kamiokande (Coach House, 80 pages, $20) crashes strange, paradoxical concerns against the everyday, to reveal its own strange, paradoxical status.
"Is NO PULP a reasonable demand?" asks one poem. Fundamentally, when you think through it, it’s not — yet consumer capital has remade the world in such fashions and we don’t even blink in the face of its nightmare.
Tierney’s images start simply and build to dizzying heights: "looking forward to French Toast Friday / with real maple syrup, / when my wife momentarily flickers. / Her true alien self in a rose-pink bathrobe."
Tim Lilburn’s The House of Charlemagne (University of Regina Press, 74 pages, $20) offers an essay in fragments to preface a dance-script that centres on Honoré Jaxon, whose life was transformed by the religious thought of Louis Riel.
Riel, in a spiritual ecstasy, prophesied that a Métis nation would rise on the Prairies a half-millennium after he died. Lilburn’s text attempts to reproduce the sense of revelation while imagining the contents of Riel’s book Massinahican, which was lost.
Lilburn’s mysticism, sometimes coupled with a wry humour, offers an engaging and fragmentary glimpse into a system of thought spiralling into a prairie sky, before being brought down to earth, where "Everything must receive the neck rope / clasping us to Christianity."
Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.
Updated on Monday, November 26, 2018 at 7:33 AM CST: Corrects spelling of Gaspereau Press