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This article was published 27/1/2018 (630 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Linda Besner’s Feel Happier in Nine Seconds (Coach House, 80 pages, $19) offers rich lines and a wry approach, loaded with fresh imagery: "On a good day my beard / is a flock of nihilists / who mock my desires."
One poetic sequence uses a host of coloured letters (that can’t be reproduced here) and complex rules around word lengths (in the next passage, no word is less than three letters long) and what sorts of letters are repeating.
Besner’s so adept that everything seems breezy and conversational: "Listen, romance isn’t just finishing each others’ bacon cheeseburgers. It’s rosebuds, stardust, it’s boycotting stuff together."
"I’m drinking for two," Besner writes in another poem; dark but funny and complex but conversational, Feel Happier in Nine Seconds keeps its punchy promise.
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Ashley-Elizabeth Best’s Slow States of Collapse (ECW, 104 pages, $19) stands as a stellar debut. "Daddy’s drinking is the glacier / that propels our life," begins one poem, and the lines give a good sense of both Best’s facility with metaphor and her stark subject matter.
Another poem offers denser and more surreal imagery: "The descent begins, weather / the star-eaten sky. / I follow the trail of eyes, / those who’ve come before me."
Best manages a raw emotionalism despite the dense lines, for a compelling tension.
"I’ve cluttered my life with people / who dislike me" — when Best breaks out of her twisting imagery and lays statements bare, devoid of imagistic dressing, it is nearly as startling as some of her bolder metaphors.
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Christine McNair’s Charm (BookThug, 104 pages, $18) revolves around the work of conception, whether considering orchid pollination or renewing oneself in the wake of trauma.
"(S)tars predict blood / in every profession," and McNair uses a fragmentary, fractured line and crashing repetitions to suggest conception as a craft is its own sort of traumatic work.
"Naked in the hot tub and the yawling gaping moon, monstrous silver disk. Stars. And more stars. The wind rushes through leaves. They bustle." Images pile onto another like crinkled, dried leaves, crackling under the crush of one another.
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Ted Landrum’s Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems (Signature, 106 pages, $18) explores where architecture and poetry might overlap, often drawing on source texts as quarries from which Landrum draws raw language that he restructures in columns and pillars.
"(P)erhaps poetry can poem in a poem," reads one of the funnier moments — "poets paradigm the word world," after all. Much of Landrum’s work has this sense of play, which elevates what could otherwise have been a dry conceptual approach.
In other moments, the lines hum more despairingly ("how the dark whispers a low song"); this local author has constructed the perfect companion to your Winnipeg winter.
Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at JonathanBall.com.