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This article was published 26/9/2009 (4381 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SUSAN Holbrook is so hilarious! In Joy Is So Exhausting (Coach House, 85 pages, $17), Holbrook is so dedicated to playfulness we can almost believe these poems don't take themselves too seriously. Which is to say this is a seriously stellar collection.
Holbrook's writing is powered by a joy for language, life, laughter. This Windsor poet is wired to the poetic texts embedded in her everyday encounters: home inspection reports, guides to writing English essays, and petsmart.com are translated into poem-guides, joyful, comedic, moody messages to lighten the wary.
In Nursery, Holbrook transcends the left-right breastfeeding experience from monotony: "Left: Trace pictograph of an elk in the fine veins on your temple. ... Right: Your smells make us embarrassed and sorry for the people around us until we hear the group ahead is visiting Ontario to hunt."
And from Good Egg Bad Seed, Holbrook's personality poem-test: "You are a binary thinker or you are and you aren't."
Release your thinking habits to Galician poet Chus Pato's m-Talá (Buschek/Shearsman, 105 pages, $17) and by page 96 you just might sense your synapses firing new connections.
Montreal poet Erin Moure translates to English Pato's mad assault of image, voice, lyric and logic into a celestial pirouette of unencumbered thought. Here is Pato's "modern lyric revolution": "not an experience of self or discovery of nature or sensibility, but A NEW POLITICAL EXPERIENCE OF THE SENSORY or A SENSORY EXPERIENCE OF THE POLITICAL."
Pato makes apparitions of boundaries. Times, cultures, myths, genders, voices, both human and non-human, are arranged dimensionless, discordant and screaming. Verbosity reaches a speed that becomes speechlessness as author dissolves in "self-cryogenation", a "non-place."
Most interesting is how Pato so imaginatively abandons the singular. Where else have mermaid skeletons, Eurydice and Marilyn Monroe all shared the same breath?
Harmonics (Freehand Books, 96 pages, $17,, the debut collection by New Brunswick poet-musician Jesse Patrick Ferguson, offers the romantic perspective of a young man in love with life.
Ferguson is an energized, clear-eared poet with ground to cover. Swooning the messy, ironic, dark and hopeful details of life, Ferguson composes the ballads of fathers, lovers, poets, sons, students and environmentalists.
With strumming momentum the poems reach brevity, often in strength, but sometimes in exasperation, as if there's too much to say, and so ending too soon.
Regardless, Ferguson writes with intimacy and insight. His energetic soundplays harmonize with an abundance of often humorous wisdom: "If you take in too much neighbour, / yield otherness a foothold, / then your memories might not recognize you in the dark."
Edmonton poet-essayist Shawna Lemay's fifth book of poems, Red Velvet Forest (The Muses' Company, $127 pages, $17), is a deeply personal quest into the secretive, mysterious, magical, key-locked inner silences of a woman making sense of her art and life.
Tracking the dead ends of suburbia through to the dream forests of childhood, Lemay's "ink trails" are "an enticing undergrowth."
These are poems that read with an intense privacy, as diary entries, raw and loose, written as if never to be seen.
Interestingly, the book ends with a personal essay discussing the poetic-thinking behind the work. Here Lemay begins to make the connections that seem to be lost in the poems themselves: "I can't help thinking of that magic of being seen and not heard.... There is some connection to the quietness I now feel entering me, and the quiet that children know as a terrain."
Jennifer Still is a poet living in Winnipeg.