Well, will you look at this. It's New Year's Day and I wanted to start the year as I mean to go on which is to write more about books I've read. This is not a resolution, you understand. I'm singularly bad at keeping those, but 2017 was a good year for poetry and I thought I should celebrate some of it. Here are just a few of the books I enjoyed this year, in no particular order.
Making Room—Forty Years of Room Magazine
ed. Meghan Bell; Caitlin Press
In 1999 when Room was called Room of One's Own they published my poem, The Quilt, my first appearance in a litmag so what's not to love! I've been dipping into this anthology which as you might imagine is full of treasures. I'm particularly enjoying the interviews about the magazine's history with former editors.
Barbara Pelman; Ronsdale Press
Got to hang out with Barbara at a poetry retreat this summer. I'd read and enjoyed an earlier collection of hers — Borrowed Rooms — so I knew I liked her poetry. Last night, when I opened Narrow Bridge, I landed on As If We Invented Love and the lines,
Even her —
tumbled hair, old slippers, housecoat
wrapped grimly around her waist.
suggested the narrator in this particular poem might well be peering down through the skylight in the kitchen! Poetry as mirror.
Her poems about family— a centenarian mother's daily phone call, a father's last days, a special moment with a grandson — are beautifully wrought.
A number of the poems are set in Europe, including the delightful Marcello poems that first appeared in a chapbook, Aubade Amalfi, from Rubicon Press, and they make me want to start looking up airfares. So much to identify with. This, from Go:
A woman over seventy should open her travel account,
run her fingers over the globe, and choose
Words to live by. Words to love by. Wonderful collection. I'll leave you with The Well:
|The Well by Barbara Pelman|
The Man With the Dancing Monkey
Barbara Mulcahy; Wolsak and Wynn
Barbara and I bonded last spring during an event at which, for reasons that are incomprehensible, we both were reading. Barbara lives in my part of the world and published this book in 1997. The section, Raven Meditations, is testimony to her powers of observation. I'm just discovering the book now. This gem, for example . . .
|Learning by Barbara Curry Mulcahy|
ed. Yvonne Blomer; Caitlin Press
Victoria B.C.'s poet laureate, Yvonne Blomer, wanted to do something that would draw attention to the plight of the Pacific Ocean, what with global warming and all of our waste that so often finds its way there. There are so many good poems in this anthology and I'm ever so proud to have one of my La Manzanilla poems included. I'm taking a copy with me to La Manzanilla this winter to donate to Helping Hands Bookstore which resells books brought down by tourists and donates money to children who need financial aid in order to continue their education. Here's what it looks like on a shelf in my studio.
|Tethered by Linda Crosfield|
Daphne Marlatt; Talonbooks
Sveva Caetani came into my life one late January/sometime in February day in 2000 when I happened to be walking down Baker Street in Nelson and there in a window was one of her paintings. I went in (it was a little ad hoc gallery that wasn't there very long and I don't remember its name). I looked at all the paintings. I came back a week or so later and bought the book that went with the exhibition, ninety dollars when I didn't have the budget for ninety dollar books but I couldn't stop thinking about it. I poured over it. I was struck by the story of Caetani's life, most of which was spent in Vernon, B.C., and the reproductions of her paintings fascinated me then and still do.
One day I was curious as to whether anyone had written poetry about her so off I went to the Google mines and discovered that Jack Pine Press had a chapbook of such poems by Daphne Marlatt. I tried all kinds of ways to get a copy but it was long sold-out. Some years later I asked a mutual friend if they'd connect us via email. We corresponded briefly and while she did't have any extra copies lying around Daphne very kindly sent me a file with the text of her poems so I could read them. Needless to say, I was more than delighted when this little book came out. It's a beauty; there are six colour plates of Caetani paintings and a few photos of her and her family as well a strong biographical component and Marlatt's wonderful poems. Look what she does with cicadas!
|Between Brush Strokes by Daphne Marlatt|
Jeff Pew; NeoPoiesis Press
Jeff Pew writes about the absurdities of life. He takes on door-to-door evangelists, the tooth fairy, and love and absolutely soars when his poems reflect on the work he does as a school counsellor. There are a few choice bill bissett poems in here as well. And this one, about fishing and stuff:
|River Lore by Jeff Pew|
Jane Byers; Caitlin Press
Full disclosure here: Jane's part of the tiny, perfect poetry group I belong to so I got to see these poems before they got together in this very important book that examines the history of the LGBTQ community in Canada and beyond. Michael Dennis reviewed it in Today's Book of Poetry. Here are a couple of pictures from the launch back in October 2016.
|Celebrating the publication of It Hurt, That's all I Know, (Nose in Book Publishing) earlier this year!|
|Committee of Adjustment by Jane Byers|
Jordan Mounteer; Sono Nis Press
I mentioned this one a couple of posts ago when I was at a reading. Jordan Mountain writes of land I know. Where else can I find Lebhado Flats, Cottonwood Market, Oso Negro Café, a Kaslo ice field and various creeks and rivers named and gathered in one place? There are also a number of travel poems situated in New Zealand, Viet Nam, Thailand and South America. He writes evocative pieces that place the reader comfortably in whatever location he writes of. From the poem Akisame, for example, this ending:
Something unsaid slogs under the porch
like a stray dog escaping the weather.Frequent, small loads of laundry
Rhonda Ganz; Mother Tongue Publishing
Such a mind has Rhonda Ganz! Her poems are smart, funny, and nearly all of them contain some zinger or other that all but knocks you off your feet. It wasn't easy choosing a representative one, they're all so good, but I went with this one as it's New Year's Day, another clean slate ahead, and here's Rhonda's take on it. See what I mean?
|In the Backcountry, Risk of Avalanche Remains High by Rhonda Ganz|
56 Days of August Poetry Postcards
ed. Ina Roy-Faderman, Paul E. Nelson, and J. I. Kleinberg; Five Oaks Press
For the past decade I've been doing this crazy thing every August that involves getting on a list of fellow postcard poets and sending a card with a poem composed directly on it to the rest of the people on your list. Most of the poets and artists in the anthology are from the States, with a smattering of us from Canada and at least one from the U.K. Given the common thread is simply that it's August and everyone's responding to the poetry challenge in their own way, a more eclectic collection would be hard to find. Subject matter ranges from poems about There are love poems and rants. Three-liners and ones I can't imagine how the poet managed to fit it onto a card. You'll find odes to food, to other poets (mine is about/for Rona Murray who once lived in Ootischenia, as I do), to pets and the natural world. Some make you laugh, some make you shiver. Here's my Rona poem which I've already revised to clear up a couple of pronoun references!
|Poem for Rona Murray by Linda Crosfield|