May 28, 2020

Winnipeg
11° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Skibsrud's poetry powered by paradox

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Johanna Skibsrud</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Johanna Skibsrud

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/2/2017 (1188 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Johanna Skibsrud’s The Description of the World (Buckrider/Wolsak and Wynn, 88 pages, $18) feels both dense and light, collecting airy poems that flutter around a philosophical weightiness.

One poem imagines a poet returning to her city, having been sent away in the same manner that Plato imagines exiling poets from his perfect utopia. "It was for your own good that we sent you away," says a blind man who recognizes her, "Now everything is as it appears; you need not speak any longer in riddles or tongues."

The poet is next interrogated and assaulted. The language of the poem is simple and direct — exactly as the blind man wants it to be! — but the scene plays out somewhat surreally, and ends with the poet fleeing after having destroyed the city’s peace by not talking.

Skibsrud’s poetry is best when it enacts these sorts of paradoxes, when "eyes see sight, and know it is a wall." She manages to be both straightforward and convoluted, and her poems have a meditative, thoughtful tone.

 


Meaghan Strimas’s Yes or Nope (Stuart Ross/Mansfield, 64 pages, $17) often takes traumatic material and processes it through ironic filters that somehow leave in the horror, as if displaying the ability of the trauma to supersede the detached tone.

In one poem, an editor criticizes a young writer’s verbs, then they become drunk, she wakes as he is date-raping her, and later she mildly leaves. When she gets home to her own apartment, she knocks on the door. Since it’s her door, and she’s not home yet, nobody answers — a perfect summary image that is oddly comical while still being a brutally depressing way to encapsulate the trauma of the event.

Another poem reaches out to the reader in a manner that offers the act of poetry itself as a traumatic connection — as opposed to the conventional way poems are seen as positive communications through which beauty is shared.

"There are so many things I never wanted to know. And now you know, too. It’s much better this way: we have clarity. We are friends."

 


Rob mclennan’s A perimeter (New Star, 70 pages, $18) details the struggles of a poet "Caught, between ambition and exhaustion" — in other words, one that is also a dad.

Through fragments that mimic both the fragmentary thought processes of the new father and the tiny slivers of time he can now dedicate to writing, mclennan’s poems crash fragment against fragment in an elegy for "u((n)in)t(e)rr((u)pte)d) s(l))ee)p."

The title poem considers the "property boundary" and the lawn as a place through which to think about identity, a father’s role, and where the personal and public intersect. One of the prolific mclennan’s stronger books.

 


Winnipegger Carmelo Militano’s The Stone-Mason’s Notebook (Ekstasis, 66 pages, $24) is filled with striking and evocative images: "snow falls like an irrelevant argument" in one poem, while in another the speaker "remember[s] the deep inhuman sound of the sea."

Militano’s poems sometimes question their own purposes ("Can a poem eliminate my regrets") but mostly work to celebrate art’s power to connect and transform, while finding energy in the everyday. "From such stuff something is eventually made, / I said to the young woman at the till / She smiled, lowered her eyes extended her hand / Your change, sir."

Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at www.JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.

 

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us