the edge of knowing
- Christine Smart (Author)
Decked and Dancing: Poems. Hedgerow (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Laurie Kruk (Author)
Loving the Alien. Your Scrivener Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Terry Watada (Author)
Obon: The Festival of the Dead. Thistledown Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Anne F. Walker
Terry Watada’s Obon: The Festival of the Dead employs the short line and space on the page throughout. This works most successfully where the music emerges from the language and the message becomes secondary to sound. The repetition of “r” and “t” sounds, which emanate from similar positions of tongue in mouth, illuminates this passage from the section “The Emerald Sutra”:
white ghosts still
label her brand her:
this traitor to her own
but never accepted as their own
The “r” and “t” resonance of “cheat” and “traitor to her” chimes a high note before moving to the deeper sound of “own.” That repetition of “own” at the end of the last two lines, transitioning “her own” to “their own,” again uses simple sounds to create melody. The collection articulates a fragmented geography where names of cities or streets are ped into poems in isolation and left there. This use of partial markers that are then shifted accentuates the ideal of the collection, to create a “tribute to the thin veil between worlds where sorrow is as transient as happiness.”
In addition to the poetry, Obon: Festival of the Dead contains an “Afterword” which gives some background explanation for the Buddhist religious ceremony that is the concern of this book’s narrative. It also contains a glossary for the non-English words used. Another helpful addition to this book would have been a table of contents. While the absence of it may be a conscious decision to blur the readers experience into something more holistic and less fragmented, such an outline would be helpful.
Decked and Dancing by Christine Smart is more traditional in its layout, lines, and sound. The lines are tight and rhythmic. Poem after poem exhibits a pleasing tone nuanced by specific details. This is not raw or ragged poetry in its images, syntax, or music. The edges exist in an emotional push from within. For example, “Bass Chords” begins by introducing a particularly refined world: “It begins with a feeling lost in the morning / not knowing what’s going on inside.” It then moves toward the pulse of the poem, which is the articulation of a raw internal feeling: “sometimes / a dream revives itself in full colour / and I know.”
Similarly in the poem “Invisible” external actions and the voice describing them have some steadiness that is in contrast to the emotional impulse of the poem, the “river of warm water flushing / me into life.”
The language in Laurie Kruk’s Loving the Alien is less contained and more conversational. In “English as a Second Language,” the narrator reads from a love letter: “luv i wont to tel you how i fil abut you. you are / pachinit an intins. I injoy our cunversations verry / much” and “am proud to cal you my gerl.” In introducing this text into the poem the author contrasts different relationships to language:
I am blinded by
his eager blue headlights, waiting.
I am the Ph.D.,
he is the one comfortable
in his words.
The thought here is more complex than it first appears. We might assume that a Ph.D. would likely possess an ease with words, yet in this case the barely literate person is “the one comfortable.” This is an interesting negotiation between lines of expectation, presentation, and intimate knowledge.
- Three Canadian Poets by Kristen Guest
Books reviewed: Visible Living: Poems Selected and New by Marya Fiamengo, Janice Fiamengo, Seymour Mayne, and Russell Thornton, Let Me Go! by Nora Alleyn and Anne Claire Poirier, and Take Us Quietly by Tammy Armstrong
- Of Obscurity and Signposts by Jesse Patrick Ferguson
Books reviewed: Palilalia by Jeffrey Donaldson, Daughters of Men by Brenda Leifso, and aubade by rob mclennan
- Take and Read by Neil Querengesser
Books reviewed: Parable Beach by Paddy McCallum, Flat Side by Monty Reid, The Science of Nothing by Marty Gervais, and The Hornbooks of Rita K by Robert Kroetsch
- Poems of Sensual Clutter by Emily Wall
Books reviewed: I Can Still Draw by Heather Spears, Our Extraordinary Monsters by Vanessa Moeller, and The Chimney Stone by Rob Winger
- David Meet David by Douglas Barbour
Books reviewed: Watermelon Kindness by David Donnell and Why Are You So Long and Sweet: Collected Long Poems by David W. McFadden
MLA: Walker, Anne F. the edge of knowing. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 23 Jan. 2012. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #197 (Summer 2008), Predators and Gardens. (pg. 194 - 195)
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