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April Books

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Issue: 35 Section: Literature & Ideas Topics: poetry

April 4, 2006

April Books

poem_web.jpgLiar: A Poem
Lynn Crosbie
Anansi: Toronto, 2006.

This book-length poem catalogues the circumstances surrounding the end of the speaker's seven-year relationship, with its attendant welter of emotions. Unfortunately, Liar has neither the poetic attentiveness nor the narrative arc required to sustain a reader's interest for 149 pages. Crosbie's diction tends to be flat: "The Beanie Babies are still boxed at my parent's (sic) house:/ limpid animals, with birth-date tags and names like Cheezer, Blessed, and Schnitzel./ She began collecting them and it soon became an obsession." Where lines do reach for the poetic, they often overshoot the mark, so that images are unearned or unexplored; there's a bit about love being like the "dangerous brinkmanship" of watching a grilled cheese sandwich burn, which somehow gets summed up by the phrase, "Like broken vessels, an astronomy of refusal." These kinds of abstractions, paired with overly mundane details of the lovers' life together, serve to obscure rather than to illuminate the character of the beloved, and without this sense of intimacy it's difficult for the reader to enter the narrative. What do gleam through, surprisingly, are the thumbnail portraits of other people: the neighbour who used to work "in the Maritimes on a fishing boat, dressed like Elton John", the woman whose foot the speaker steps on while wearing stiletto heels. Occasional turns of phrase also burn bright: "the short movements of a newborn squirrel, who,/ in falling from its nest,/ cried with grief as wasps entered its mouth." Closer attention to craft and avoidance of repetition would have made this a more rewarding read.
--Linda Besner

ThunderFrontCover-web.jpgSeal up the Thunder
Erin Noteboom
Wolsak and Wynn: Toronto, 2005

Erin Noteboom's poetry consistently exceeds expectations and stretches beyond its own limitations in this awe-inspiring collection. The poetry featured here is not religious per se, but is inspired by the Bible and focussed on the language and stories of Christian scripture. Traditional metaphors and tropes come into play here: stones on tongues, milk and honey, salt, wounds, blood. Yet Noteboom also employs a fresh, contemporary set of images: "grey and greased dishwater," "Queen of morphine drips," "the light that loves the bowl of spoons," "My God of the ragbag/ with the needle in your mouth." Some individual poems are simply superb: "Delilah, on contradictions," "O Wisdom, this world," "The sparrow child," and "How even the holy cover their faces." This last poem fuses the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac with the real life story of Deanna Laney, a woman who killed her sons with stones because she believed God commanded it. The poem's rhythm, understatement, and repetition are masterful: "How she woke near midnight/ and took the oldest first onto the lawn/ how the sprinklers came on, how they ran/ to the rock garden./ How she had decided on stones." Seal up the Thunder is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than prophecy, more than devotion, more than reclaiming or retelling, more than praise. It is a heartfelt and wise meditation on the disparity between the quotidian and the eternal, the past and the present, and the infinite gaping maw between the human and the divine.
--Matthew J. Trafford

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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