When the air no longer cut our faces and the sidewalk gives up its haul of squashed coffee cups and shredded flyers, I am walking again across Riverdale. The hem-wet fields, the footbridge over Don Valley, the grinning cracks of East Gerald.
Nothing has sprouted yet. But the big reveal is coming. All winter I’ve kept myself buried. My rooms smell stale with recycled ink and old tea bags. I’ve been occupied, and so far I have a few brief pieces to show for 2015:
—an interview with this year’s CWILA Critic-in-Residence, Lucas Crawford, on the Puritan’s Town Crier blog;
—a review of Kayla Czaga’s debut book of poems, For Your Safety Please Hold On, on the Arc Poetry Magazine site, and another of Kerry-Lee Powell’s Inheritance will soon appear (both books were recently nominated for a Gerald Lampert Award);
—and a poem on George Murray’s newpoetry.ca site, “Another View.” It’s an old, old poem that I’ve reworked many times and seems finally to have found its shape.
I’m more selective these days about what I want to take on. So each of these pieces are meaningful to me as those first goose honks of the spring. The ones you hear when you’re darting across a windy parking lot far above the 401, and you jerk your head up and see something magnificent flying overhead that had been trying to overtake you for some time.
The first book review I wrote was on request. Helen Guri asked me to review her debut with Coach House, Match, in the fall of 2011. It’d barely gotten the attention it deserved, though things were beginning to seethe– CWILA formed around that time, pointing to the dearth of reviews of women-authored books in Canadian publishing. I was still in school, finishing my MA degree, and by default, Editor-in-Chief of echolocation, a tiny literary print journal put out by the graduate English department. Like so many of the tiny university literary journals, was run entirely on volunteer time, university grants and departmental neglect. All but two of the previous years’ staff had graduated. I’d offered to set up its new blog and found myself conducting the whole set-up. Lesson here? If I name it you might assume I’ve actually learnt it.
In June 2012, Match was nominated for the Trillium prize, and yet still hadn’t been reviewed. My review appeared in echolocation‘s Fall 2012 issue, and soon after it was reviewed in Lemon Hound, then Event and Arc Poetry in early 2013.
• • •
Helen Guri, Match, Coach House Books, 88pgs, $17.95
I may be giving away the punchline before you’ve heard the joke when I reveal that Helen Guri intended Match to consist of love sonnets, where the love object is a blow-up sex doll and the sonnets bear only a vestige of its formal conventions. Guri divulged this to a recent audience, and my memory may be inaccurate– it’s possible that I extracted from her preamble the explanation that validated my own reading of Match. This experience of craving verification for our assumptions, however, lies at heart of Guri’s novel-in-poems.