Méira Cook's Monologue Dogs (Brick, 80 pages, $20) dives into the waters of folklore, with poems ranging from Bible tales to Greek legends to the Brothers Grimm.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/8/2015 (2459 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Méira Cook's Monologue Dogs (Brick, 80 pages, $20) dives into the waters of folklore, with poems ranging from Bible tales to Greek legends to the Brothers Grimm.

Winnipeg's Cook playfully marries myth and the modern. In one poem, a young Eve beds her beau in a pickup truck just off the highway.

Cook braids together dense, rich images. Young Eve also ponders a "Library of Imaginary Books" where "poems ripen, wet and lush, / as time-lapse fruit inside their husks."

Another poem describes the sky, elegantly, as a place "where nothing grows."

Cook plays with the monologue form throughout, her mythic speakers sparking to life to tell their dramatic tales in a charming, engaging, vivacious collection.

-- -- --

Joanne Epp's Eigenheim (Turnstone, 110 pages, $17) is an assured debut, and its opening poems achieve a dreamy lightness that belies their craft and care.

The poems of Winnipeg's Epp have a relaxed pace and offer imagery as clear as glass; the night, for instance, is "a solid thing that would still let her fall," and "kids feel August stretching out."

Epp, an assistant church organist, manages a suite of strong poems about playing music -- an impressive feat given the difficulty of describing not only the sound but the sense of this activity. In one poem, playing piano becomes akin to "running downhill too fast / wind shoving at my back" -- an earlier line, almost like a prayer, says "Make the lightning come closer."

Eigenheim means "one's own home," and Epp certainly feels at home here in this impressive first book.

-- -- --

Ben Ladouceur's Otter (Coach House, 80 pages, $18) joins a handful of excellent and explicit books that bring a gay male perspective to the poetry world (a similar standout that Otter sometimes recalls is Daniel Zomparelli's Davie Street Translations).

Ladouceur's poems are slick and inventive. There's a paradoxically thudding elegance to a line like "We wrote letters, until we didn't." He also shines in a more conventional poetic register, with an almost (and perhaps ironic) biblical tone: "When winter arrives / the mosquitoes will expire / and material will cover the bodies of men."

Otter is a startling debut and a dense, rewarding read.

-- -- --

"Enough philosophy. Greatly / I have coffeed and greatly / misunderstood," writes Kayla Czaga in For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood, 96 pages, $19). Another strong debut filled with wonderful, sparkling gems (such as turning "coffee" into a verb), Czaga's book displays a remarkable confidence and range.

Czaga's most impressive poems are modelled on the work of Gertrude Stein, a mimicry many poets try (most fail). Czaga couples her Stein-esque lines with a feminist critique: "A girl never wants to woman. A girl is kicked / and killed in wild, howling womanhood. / [...] A girl turns another girl / womanish to stay small and wanted and win."

Most of Czaga's poems are more formally conservative but no less impressive. Highlights include an elegy for Victoria Soto, a teacher killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, and A Poem for Jeff listing all of the things in the world that are f--ked. Spoiler alert: Pretty much everything is f--ked -- except this book.


Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at www.JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.

If you value coverage of Manitoba’s arts scene, help us do more.
Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow the Free Press to deepen our reporting on theatre, dance, music and galleries while also ensuring the broadest possible audience can access our arts journalism.
BECOME AN ARTS JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.