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This article was published 26/10/2019 (223 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nick Admussen’s Stand Back, Don’t Fear the Change (New Michigan, 60 pages, $9) offers prose-poem "parables" that bend into wild, weird poses.
In Parable of the Greatcoat, Admussen clashes the grand seriousness of the parable form against the absurdity of offering grandly serious advice in our modern, consumerist age. "Okay, so the coat got holes and the holes got large and then the coat was holes. This seems like the whole story but it is just part of the story that you, one day, will be forced to think past."
Parable of Persistent Email begins, "Nobody speaks to their ancestors any more, and you are not famous. Once you die, praying to you will be a waste of time." The poem then details the sad but oddly beautiful relationship that a spam-email generator will have with "you" after "your" death.
Admussen’s brilliant, simple structure allows for a massive amount of play, and makes for a compelling, impressive display.
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Sharanpal Ruprai’s Pressure Cooker Love Bomb (Frontenac House, 80 pages, $20) offers poems that take cooking from recipes as a metaphor for following the rules of one’s culture.
Ruprai questions what dishes, what identities, you could create for yourself if you strayed from what you’re told to do: "opt out opt in / create new multi-cooker love / #unsatisfactoryinstagrampoetry / #butterchicken/tacos-withroti / #non-binaryaffairs."
The poems work best when they swerve from the path that seems laid out for them: "take up your rolling pin, yes / the one your mother beat you with." A strong sophomore collection that hits a sweet spot.
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Arielle Twist’s Disintegrate/Dissociate (Arsenal Pulp, 70 pages, $17) focuses on the bodily experience of being an Indigenous trans woman, whether in delight or despair.
"Is being trans worth being killed?" Twist wonders in one moment, while in another, she might bombastically declare her power. The poems work best when Twist walks the line for ambiguity and depth: "Losing control / of names chosen / and names given, / losing track of / selves I killed, / buried under / uprooted trees."
That final line adds a wonderful oddity and complexity to the image. Is Twist thrilled or terrified to have buried those selves? Have the trees been uprooted in that burying process, and is this to be celebrated or mourned?
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Tanis MacDonald’s Mobile (Book*hug, 120 pages, $18) offers feminist re-imaginings of male-authored poems that celebrate the city, walking and other civic engagements.
Since women are unable to enjoy the city in the same way as men are (in part, because of men), MacDonald complicates these easy celebrations. "Call me a foot soldier / in an unregistered / army of young women walking / home from dirty jobs."
MacDonald also moves out of those modes to present meditations on "female citizenship and settler culpability" and explore a bittersweet take on Toronto, as any prairie-born might.
"Being a goddess was overrated and underfunded," the wry walker writes, while in another, she notes how the "power / ballad takes no prisoners." If your boots are made for walking, this book will tell you what to do.
Jonathan Ball’s first book, Ex Machina, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and is available for free at jonathanball.com/freebook.
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