Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/2/2016 (1939 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The poems in Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli’s Rom Com (Talonbooks 130 pages, $20) take Hollywood romantic comedies as their subject to explore what they might have to teach us about love, and perhaps sadness, and (of course) poetry. And they’re basically awesome.
"Sometimes, life feels like / Ashton Kutcher just walked into the scene." What’s a better metaphor for the horrors of life than this? The poems bounce between poking fun at the absurdity of rom-coms and their clichés, and shovelling ice cream scoops of sadness into their downturned mouths — sometimes all at once: "What do you call a woman / standing in front of a mirror // pretending she is talking / to a crush? You don’t call // her. Nobody does."
"The perks of being / a wallflower is writing poetry no one likes." Maybe more people would like poetry if it was always this smart and fun.
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Lee Maracle’s Talking to the Diaspora (ARP, 120 pages, $17) takes its title from the idea that "On Turtle Island anyone who is not Indigenous / is part of some Diaspora" (a peoples spread out across a great area), and the poems often waver between furious declarations of disgust and defiant proclamations of strength.
"I refuse to be tragic," writes Maracle, "[…] We have lived for 11,000 years on this coastline / this is not the first massive death we have endured." Elsewhere, the imagery is more poetic — fish are "dream slices" that "dance and haunt" — but overall Maracle refuses pretty lines for a brutal, brash tone. There’s an incredible power behind Maracle’s voice, which demands to be heard.
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Raoul Fernandes’s Transmitter and Receiver (Nightwood, 80 pages, $19) is an impressive first book featuring a wide range of work that nevertheless feels united. The poems work best when they are stark but somehow fragile — a poem for Amanda Todd, who committed suicide after a brutal cyberbullying campaign, offers the image of "a pear tree in the middle of a wasteland where the pear tree is you and the wasteland is the comments section."
In another poem, Fernandes notes that "It’s the nothing / we are drawn to, a kind of snowfall-nothing / or those empty pages at the end of a novel." Possibly the most dark and powerful image in the book is that of a "shirt, stretched and faded" that "says Save the Tigers across it. But / there are no more tigers left / on this earth."
A sad sentiment that may not be true now but will be one day. An impressive and understated debut.
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The title of Shirley Camia’s The Significance of Moths (Turnstone, 86 pages, $17) refers to the Filipino superstition that recently deceased people may return as moths — Camia also uses moths as metaphors for memories, moments that may pass on but nevertheless return (in this case, as poems).
The Winnipeg-born Camia (who now lives in Toronto) combines her own memories with an attempt to capture cultural memory, the experience of Filipino immigrants. The poems recover moments through sharp, strong images — a cardinal is "a matador’s flag / for the bull / of winter" and certain remembered men had "faces / cracked like roasted pig skin" that "sent out smoky circles / cut by children chasing chickens."
Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at www.JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.