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This article was published 26/1/2019 (262 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Anthony Etherin’s Cellar (Penteract, 32 pages, $10) gathers 75 poems from his Twitter feed (@Anthony_Etherin), all of which are very short and have been constructed using rigorous constraints.
Most of the poems are anagrams (poems where each line contains the same letters as the other lines) or palindromes (poems that read that same backwards and forwards). Etherin also invents the "aelindrome," a complex palindrome that works using letter clumps.
Many of the poems contain additional constraints, such as this palindrome that is also a haiku as well as a lipogram (since it contains no vowels aside from E): "Deft bed, test sentence / Repel, lest sell, E, Perec! / Net, nest-set, debt fed..."
Formally masterful and brilliantly complicated, and yet deceptively simple and elegant, these poems are wonderfully crafted.
Michael Nardone’s The Ritualites (Book*hug, 94 pages, $20) offers poems often composed by gathering and mixing found text, as in the sequence Airport Novel, which compiles text from thrillers found in airport bookstands.
One of the book’s best sequences seems to mix lines from a Dr. Phil book with lines from George W. Bush’s book Decision Points, and also seems to incorporate airport thrillers. "It’s no accident you are holding this book // Every event we experience and every person we meet has been put in our path for a reason // … Our way of life, our very freedom, had come under attack // Who did this? // I looked at the faces of the children in front of me // I heard people yelling my name."
Elsewhere, Nardone’s lines are more dense and fragmented, but they always reflect back the reader’s own paranoid compulsion to connect, poetically, these shards of the unnoticed world, to make meaning from the slop slipping out of "Dearthdads slaughterjuice jaws."
Adrian De Leon’s Rouge (Mawenzi House, 84 pages, $20) is "a response to the 2012 mass shooting at a block party on Danzig Street, Scarborough (Toronto)" but only vaguely and indirectly addresses the event. Instead, De Leon focuses his poetic eye on the subway lines in the city’s east end.
De Leon’s poems have a stunning range, perhaps meant to reflect the diversity of these locations and their inhabitants. While one poem adopts a haughty, archaic tone ("Deter my weary hand, O muse"), another might sling slang ("Nothing’s in Scarborough But Drake dun spit verses Who cares").
Eclectic and electric, Rouge is an impressive debut.
Maurice Mierau’s How Mind & Body Move: The Poetry of Patrick Friesen (Frog Hollow, 72 pages, $20) is published in a limited edition of 100 copies, and is the only non-fiction monograph that exists about Friesen’s underrated body of work.
Mierau argues for particular female influences and that Friesen’s work grounds itself in the body, effectively attempting to connect Friesen’s poetry to particular trends in feminist thought.
Regardless of whether or not one accepts Mierau’s argument, his book provides a stellar overview of the poetic concerns and personal history of this important Prairie poet.
Winnipeg English Prof. Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at jonathanball.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.
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