Aaron Tucker’s previous books include poetry about the avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp’s chess matches and a novel about Robert Oppenheimer, lead architect of the atomic bomb. Catalogue d’oiseaux explores a more wide-ranging set of subjects, from recent political history of Germany to the timbre of Tom Waits.

Aaron Tucker’s previous books include poetry about the avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp’s chess matches and a novel about Robert Oppenheimer, lead architect of the atomic bomb. Catalogue d’oiseaux explores a more wide-ranging set of subjects, from recent political history of Germany to the timbre of Tom Waits.

This book-length poem catalogues a variety of the events, sights, sounds, tastes and other engaging aspects in the memory of a year in a couple’s life, as they live separated by an ocean but come together in occasional visits. Tucker moves casually and breezily across this distance, skipping from moment to moment as quickly as a stone might skip out into that ocean.

A recurring technique is to move from the speaker’s memories suddenly to immerse in the viewpoint of some bird, who may ignore or may observe the couple: "we continued toward the Necropolis / … birdsong overhead / you are a perched cedar waxwing / … / you grip the branch with one foot, the sweet of your berrymeal / sap satiates you, you are patient, watch the couple / & call to them, sree, because the rain has stopped / because they are together."

It’s a simple technique with a complicated effect, of making the world seem to share in the couple’s connection without actually sentimentalizing or speaking directly about their emotional bond. The poem can widen out and away from the couple while remaining in their orbit, avoiding the self-obsessiveness of the standard love poem by constantly using the couple as a touchstone for reflection on the world.

 

Other Notable Poetry Releases

Footlights, by Pearl Pirie (Radiant, 74 pages, $20)

"What’s it like to be proud and sure / as a young man at an open mic?" What Pirie’s poems lack in certainty, they make up for in anxious wonderment. While making a shopping list, the speaker finds herself "waiting for the list / to become a poem / and enlighten me."

Walking on the Beaches of Temporal Candy, by Christian McPherson (At Bay, 304 pages, $25)

Perhaps the only poetry collection that doubles as a flip book (while you thumb its pages, an astronaut at the top of the page strolls slowly out of the book). Another stellar design by Winnipeg’s At Bay Press to accompany a thoughtful selection of musings, covering the Death of Johnny Carson to Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan to emptying yourself out in service of art and everything in between.

Pluviophile, by Yusuf Saadi (Nightwood, 80 pages, $19)

An impressive debut, filled with clever concepts (one poem explores an underworld where out-of-use words go to die and be sometimes reborn) and startling lines. As "we Twitter, Tinder, Tumblr through eternity" and "waves of data spill / through our skulls," it’s good to pause and spend some time with a lover of rain.

Jonathan Ball’s newest book is the short story collection The Lightning of Possible Storms (Book*hug, 2020). Visit him online at www.jonathanball.com.