Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/9/2010 (4046 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TORONTO poet Michael Lista's debut, Bloom (Anansi Press, 76 pages, $23), is all one might hope for in a book of poetry: an unencumbered, nervy fusion of imagination and form.
Lista's pen is as driven and testing as his subject, Louis Slotin, the famed Winnipeg-born physicist whose work on the Manhattan Project gained him hero status on May 21, 1946, when he accidently triggered a nuclear core to "criticality," and, as the story goes, saved the lives of his peers by throwing his body in front of the radioactive "bloom."
Lista romances this image, a brilliant and destructive act of creation, through a remarkable eclipsing of time, place, subject and form. Here the nuclear age is transposed with Greek mythology; Slotin, Los Alamos and the atomic bomb are the metempsychosis of Odysseus, Ithaca and the Trojan Horse.
Lista boldly recasts the works of literary predecessors and contemporaries from Rilke and Yeats to Karen Solie and the Velvet Underground. Impressively, imitation does not diffuse Lista's subject nor overwhelm his own distinctive voice. Quite the contrary, it adds to the creative instability of which he writes: "Our gift, our grief: to keep a vacant space / Where some redeeming novelty may bloom. / We are the centre never meant to hold."
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In a more whimsical vein, Montreal poet/artist/animator Elisabeth Belliveau charts "the space of a wish" in don't get lonely don't get lost (Conundrum, 144 pages, $25) a playful, fresh, quirky collection of poems and sketches.
Belliveau's poems are the lyrical manifestations of her various brown-bag/loose-leaf/1959 daybook canvasses: raw, doodled, well-travelled portraits of longing.
Refreshingly unstudied and ingenuous in her approach, Belliveau's poem-sketches include women poets and their dogs, Coronation Street characters and Marie Antoinette. When spun together, this fine web of words and drawings intersects in flashes of recognition.
Complete with a DVD and transcription of her animation Margaret's Mountain, don't get lonely don't get lost offers a visual/textual cross-stitch of portraits revealing an artistic process as porous and honest as they come:
"1. practice patience / 2. practice slow / 3. practice trust / 4. practice your heart."
Belliveau's work is on display at the Ace Art Gallery in Winnipeg until Oct. 1.
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Tracy Hamon gazes intently into the past in her daring second collection, Interruptions in Glass (Coteau Books, 73 pages, $17), a sassy bringing-to-light of the darker stores of personal memory. Here, Hamon follows the residual effects of the past like a "shadowy path / slightly ahead of myself."
In lyrics as brazen as they are reflective, Hamon discloses a "virus" of desire, her insights harsh, sudden and hauntingly real: "last night's shiraz crusted / on the bottom of a glass, leftover / like a bruise from the kiss on your neck, // a dark shape you didn't really / notice until the sun / bared the stain on the empty."
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Winnipegger Jonathan Ball renders theatrical carnage in his chilling second collection, Clockfire (Coach House, 103 pages, $17). In these spare, nightmarish theatre-scapes, Ball directs our "impossible dreams" by blurring the script between actor and audience, the real and the staged, the lived and the dreamed, the self and the other.
Ball plays out an audience's insatiable need for change: "something you fear but desire with each pulse." Among these strange possible purgatories is the theatre as a darkroom with the audience watching projected images of themselves as they age. M.C. Escher loops of doom.
At times reading more as horror-film treatments than prose poems (no doubt Ball's intention), Clockfire finds its strength in irony, and could be best appreciated as a sensationalized treatise for the masses, a curtain call to the excess, violence and moral decentring of our narcissistic age.
Jennifer Still lives in Winnipeg. Her second book of poems, Girlwood, will appear in spring 2011 from Brick Books in London, Ont.