Attention Span 2011 | Stephen Collis
Louis Cabri | Poetryworld | Cue | 2010
A book that, manoeuvring in very tight spaces, manages to exhaust the possibilities and potentialities of inflection and pronunciation. Minimal and maximal at once. There are texts here you have to sing to hear. In others, the pleasure is really in hearing Cabri himself read them. This is conceptual/procedural work, but Cabri is no purist—he mucks with what he comes up with—as the final arbiter is always going to be the sound of spoken language, tuned to its minutest variations.
Garry Thomas Morse | Discovery Passages | Talonbooks | 2011
Morse has for some time (and over a number of books) been exploring the possibilities of a kind of Poundian arch poetry-speak (where iconic cultural rubble is at once celebrated and mocked—oh how tired it all is, operatic and unwilling to leave us alone). In his new book Morse turns that learned, lurid, and laconic eye on local history (George Vancouver’s “discovery” of the Canadian west coast) and his own Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations heritage. Morse is a poet where to hear it is to believe it. And he wants his frog back, Smithsonian.
Mark Truscott | Nature | Bookthug | 2010
I wonder how many words are in this book—maybe 200? 250? Scattered like a few pheromones on the wind of 80 pages. Constrained to the utmost degree, language here still reaches out to deictically indicate a world present and immediate beyond the page, as it simultaneously produces a phatic echolocation of the “here” and “now” of its almost pristinely empty but nevertheless “textual” pages. Truscott is a minimalist’s minimalist, a slow poet so slow you pull out your field glasses and wait and watch, breathlessly, for the slightest movement.
Donato Mancini | Buffet World | New Star | 2011
Mancini’s books have to me read something like primers or textbooks (I mean this in a good way): here’s everything you can do with the alphabet (Ligatures); here’s all the ways you can twist transform and torque the letter form into visual arrays (Aethel). Maybe those books were the necessary “exercises” for this new book, which puts a masterly stamp on what Mancini’s been up to. Yes, there are visual pieces here; yes, there are procedures and fun and games, lists and statistics. But there are also long probing poems about what how and why we eat—a biting, sharp, hilarious and disturbing critique of the industrialization and commodification of the simple process of primary reproduction.
Rob Stanton | The Method | Penned in the Margins | 2011
This is what I wrote for Rob’s blurb: “In Rob Stanton’s excellent new collection, ‘the method’ is clear: ‘that something so complete … does not need witness.’ The problem to be solved here, however, is what to do when that ‘complete’ ‘something’ is not actually present on the page. Through translation, through omission, through compression and the minimalist precision of ‘canny wee things,’ Stanton creates a marvelous texture of voices and references which offers us a glimpse of the just-barely-thereness of a world thought into being by language. At the centre of the book is a vital sequence of sonnets, written in response to Luk Tuymans’ paintings, that pushes the boundaries of the sonnet form, offering an array of approaches to the ekphrastic moment. As Rilke comes in and out of view as muse and phantom, The Method shows that, while ‘completeness’ might not need our ‘witness,’ we, however, nearly wither under its impenetrable gaze.”
Amy De’Ath | Erec & Enide | Salt | 2010
I have to admit to limited familiarity with contemporary British poetry: Some Prynne, some Keston Sutherland, Andrea Brady (not really a Brit I guess), Tony Lopez, Caroline Bergvall (now there’s someone to trouble national boundaries!), Peter Larkin, Allen Fisher. But if Amy De’Ath’s work is any indication of where young British poets are/are heading, then it’s a pretty good place to be/going. De’Ath is a poet with such a smart ear, fuelled by a rhetoric at once cocksure and in doubt, drunk with poetry’s past but fully engaged with the present post-spectacular moment. This book is “a little ferocity in bloom,” and I can’t wait to see more from De’Ath.
Cecily Nicholson | Triage | Talonbooks | 2011
This is Nicholson’s first book, but it comes growling and howling out of years of community service, social struggle, and an intense and long-term investment in language and the land. From the disasters of open pit mines, the suffering and loss of precarious communities, and the solidarity found in collaborative resistance, Nicholson weaves a dense linguistic surface where we cannot escape the complicity of capital C “Culture” in the endless wars we wage against the earth and each other. I flat out love this book, and find it a clarion call I simply cannot ignore. All the same, it leaves no one off the hook, nothing outside its critical-poetical gaze. Triage is rough, but someone has to sift through the damage to find what can still be saved. Nicholson is a “good” but honest “doctor.”
Brenda Iijima | If Not Metamorphic | Ahsahta | 2010
If not metamorphic, then what? Iijima’s answer is a book of transformations, a book that says—there’s no alternative to alteration (a kind of “what does not change…” sort of formation). That constant metamorphosis keeps Iijima’s readers on their toes. Not unlike two other (however different) poets whose work I love—Robert Duncan and Lissa Wolsak—Iijima manages to ERASE the line between discourses that we might mark as distinctly “spiritual” or “political” (adding the somatic and ecological into the metamorphing mix). The human here is entirely repositioned within flux—which is, I think, where it belongs—”biome / with no exception.” There is a headlong plunge to this text (as with other Iijima books), so that “a sentence can’t handle this fall,” first page to the last. Whenever I read Brenda Iijima I find, sooner rather than later, I stop reading, and start writing. I think that says a lot about what she’s doing. This is fecundating work, to the extreme, steadily eroding the boundary between reading and writing.
Stephen Collis’s most recent book, On the Material (Talonbooks 2010), was awarded the 2011 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Forthcoming books include Lever (Nomados), To the Barricades (Talonbooks), and a book-length essay on “change.”