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This article was published 23/2/2019 (263 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ken Hunt’s The Lost Cosmonauts (Book*hug, 130 pages, $18) considers the space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. and mourns its dead.
Hunt meditates on how "humanity maintains its long-term plan: // to populate the Milky Way, taming its stars, / and huddle near these lights, in vaulting abbatoirs."
In concept, ambition and technique, The Lost Cosmonauts is absolutely stunning in every way. Delivering beautiful and engrossing poems on a weighty subject with a light touch, Hunt’s lines "(shatter) our atmosphere in fugues of grinding fire."
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Dominique Bernier-Cormier’s Correspondent (Icehouse, 90 pages, $20) considers three historical events that the author’s father covered as a CBC foreign correspondent: "the sinking of the Kursk, the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud and the hostage crisis at the Dubrovka Theatre."
Bernier-Cormier winds text taken from source voices (a Facebook post from Massoud’s son about the days following his father’s death, for example) through prose poems exploring the events themselves.
The resulting poetic sequences contain beautiful, affecting, stark prose threaded with sad, sharp voices.
Gripping and compelling, they develop with the depth and drive of a novel and a novelist’s eye for detail: "In the next valley, flaming apricots hang from branches at night. Little kicks in the dark, little sparks. A child learns by heart the lines a tank writes in the wet grass."
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Allison Chisholm’s On the Count of None (Anvil, 70 pages, $18) sloshes with strange imagery, filled to the brim: "This day is a string of jewellery-store robberies / and we stand motionless."
In one poem, where we might expect a stanza to develop her themes, instead Chisholm offers us a "(Pee break)" — as if she had to get up and go to the washroom and so lost her train of thought. Or perhaps she’s offering us the opportunity to take a break from the book, before she hammers home "Our mutual decay?"
Minimalist but oddly fleshy, filled with surprising turns and sly imagery, On the Count of None has something for every reader, even their horoscopes: "If you are not yet moving at top speed, you very soon will be."
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Darrell Epp’s Sinners Dance (Mosaic, 86 pages, $18) imagines, among other oddities, "the sounds this piano could have made / if beethoven had had eleven fingers."
Epp’s bizarre imagery delights and amazes, as we watch him twist poems into pretzels. Epp subverts standard poetic values, offering poems that parody poems: "saw the man in the moon in a macchiato latte. / dreamed of saying one true thing but couldn’t / quite pull it off."
Here, Epp presents the dream of poetry ("saying one true thing") as an impossible delusion, while in other poems he uses this same sarcastic tone to in fact say such true things: "i was selfish, now my / self is all i have."
Always exciting and fun, Epp’s dense, snakelike poems will wrap and crush your heart.
Winnipeg English Prof. Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at jonathanball.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.