Powerful imagery in formalist verse

Slate petals (and other wordscapes), by Anthony Etherin (Penteract, 148 pages, $ 25), confirms Etherin as one of the world’s leading authors of constrained and formalist verses.

Etherin’s poems use complex and rigid structures – as a “simple” example, Etherin could create a sonnet where each line not only fulfills a strict syllable and rhyme counting system, but also reads the same verse l ‘back and forth, letter by letter.

The poems are not only formally impressive, but also show an advancement in Etherin’s ability to evoke powerful imagery and thematic force, which is typically lacking in otherwise formally complicated poems like these.

“It’s rare to see so many crows / and now they’ve gone to gather at night,” Etherin writes in a poem, while another wonders if the stars named us the way we called them, ” with names that last much longer than ours. ”

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that of Susan Holbrook ink count (Coach House, 134 pages, $ 22), moves the erasure poem (where an existing text is partially deleted to “reveal” another poem sleeping inside) into its obvious final phase: erasing the publicity copy of the classic Pink Pearl eraser.

The resulting poems range from the irreverent mockery of the whole project’s joke to a thoughtful reflection on the nature of poetic creation and tradition. One poem advises “erase your darlings” while another summarizes the history of art as “dudes nudes”.

“Erase an eraser ad and sign it,” Holbrook advises in another poem. In doing so, Holbrook both pokes fun at the project, positions it as an interruption of an avant-garde male-dominated artistic tradition, and calls on the reader to create.

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Cut down half of the trees, by Evan J (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 94 pages, $ 18), finds the former Manitoban (now living in Sioux Lookout) examining his own position in a troubled time for a troubled society, where racism seems rampant and where the class struggle claims new victims on a daily basis.

“The roar is Gimli’s reputation, / is the flaw of the old ways // from volcanoes to plains /… / from Eddas to coffee // black as sheep’s blood. /… / Ammas / who calls wealth an eye smoked gold. ”

The poems perfectly capture the true meaning of small town life, which is something more austere and vicious than what is typically presented in national literature (which often romanticizes the rural), but not without conscious humor. .

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Phantompains, by Therese Estacion (Cuddly Book *, 100 pages, $ 20), mixes the horror of Filipino folk tales with the autobiographical nightmare of suffering and surviving a rare infection that required a major amputation. The poems thus position themselves in the process of purging the dark emotions that flourish outside of the experience, even as they crystallize these fractured feelings into stone.

Considering the aswang, a flesh-eating creature capable of dismembering and reforming, Estacion is on the verge of dissociating and sympathizing with the necrotic bacteria that has eaten away at her, yearning to rebuild itself as “fangs and wings and… thousands of knives “. A surprising start with more honesty than most.

Jonathan Ball won a Manitoba Book Award for his short story collection The Lightning of Possible Storms (Book * hug, 2020). Visit it online at jonathanball.com.

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