This week’s column looks at poetry from all around, including Prince Edward Island (two), Nova Scotia and even Massachusetts (with some Maritime connections), from well-known and experienced writers, as well as newcomers.
Why are so many people composing poetry today? Is it, perhaps an outburst of observation and imagination, provoked by the widespread lack — or encouragement — of these qualities in the modern world?
Let’s begin with Laurie Brinklow’s Here for the Music, published by Acorn press ($17.95). Starting with reminiscences in the form of prose poems — travelling the country as a child, giving birth — Brinklow moves on to men and finally to Prince Edward Island.
Many of the poems are more like snapshots, and the whole book adds up to a kind of autobiography. It’s not tops, but it’s good. We can look forward to her next collection.
The other Island book is by Kathy Birt, and is the fifth one she has self-published. She has written short stories “sold to publications nationally and internationally”, as well as, most recently, a book about life working in a call centre.
Island Roots, a tiny book, printed at Kwik Kopy in Charlottetown ($11.95 and obtainable from the author at email@example.com, as well as widely available in both Charlottetown and Summerside gift shops and book stores) is worth hunting for. Most of the poems are about Island winters and summers and the author’s reactions to them. They are both vivid and gentle and should have a wide appeal. It’s to be hoped they may be more widely available before summer, as the little collection would make a perfect souvenir.
A book by George Elliott Clarke is always an event. “What has he come up with now?” poetry-lovers may wonder.
Although Black (second edition revised, Gaspereau Press, $21.95) first appeared in 2006, it’s still a representative collection of his work; describing himself as “a sort of African-American and a so-so English-Canadian.” It might be best to describe him as an international writer grounded in blackness, as his subjects range far and wide. Among them are death, his will, women, places he has been and language itself. The whole is illustrated by photographs, mostly of beautiful black women. In our opinion, this is the best of the four books reviewed here, but it’s not to everybody’s taste.
Finally, there’s Jan Conn’s Edge Effects. Conn is a professor of bio-medical sciences, specializing in the study of mosquitoes and their environment; thus many of her poems have a tropical flavour. Quite a number are surreal — wrecked buildings, chaos, people neither alive nor dead. Here’s an example from Omniscience is Over-rated:
In this force field objects collect:
a traveller’s palm, wobbling ladders,
balanced on a single piano key,
spotlight blazing on his face.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at 111 Sydney St., Apt. 17, Saint John, N.B., E2L 2L8, or call her at 506-693-5498.