“I am visiting my childhood memories/green as tomatoes in May/stalked until they are red/and plucked like roses,” –I. B. Iskov, Founder, The Ontario Poetry Society.*
A huge bouquet of virtual roses for Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov who recently launched her latest chapbook My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018). Over the years, she has not only acquired many accolades for her dedicated work with The Ontario Poetry Society but praise has also been bestowed on her writing. Many of these award-wining memory-infused poems are included in her new book. Almost all have been previously published between 2000 and 2017. I look forward to reading this new collection.
You may hear Iskov read from My Coming of Age this Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Oakville where she is hosting The Ontario Poetry Society’s Autumn Ingathering for Poetry event. Open to the public, this free event will begin at 1 p.m. at Taste of Columbia – Fair Trade Coffee & Gift Shop; 67 Bronte Rd., Units 2 and 3. It will include mini-book launches, members’ readings, and an open mic for non-members. Sign-up for readers is at the door. Additional information here.
Below is a review** (of Iskov’s chapbook) written by award-winning Canadian poet Elana Wolff:
My Coming of Age
HMS Press, 2018, 48 pp
The forty-four poems in My Coming of Age—a chapbook with the inside-cover subtitle The Best of an Ongoing Collection of a Life Expressed in Poetry—represent I. B. (Bunny) Iskov’s selection of previously published poems, most of which have received contest citations. The title poem, “My Coming of Age”—a riff on the fan-fiction mold, told as homage to The Beatles—aptly captures the poet’s characteristic wry sense of humour and unshielded personableness in the face of life’s swerves, curves, and world concerns. “The Beatles belonged to me / in my coming of age. It was a freer time / even though the Viet Nam war was raging, / even though there was unrest in the Middle East, / even though my parents were constantly fighting, / I had my Beatles record / to keep me safe and happy / when they sang All You Need Is Love …”
Bunny Iskov displays a discerning eye for the everyday, as captured in titles like “Chronic Cough”, “Wringer Washer Warranty”, and “Ode to My Computer”; genuine interest in the ‘everyman’ in poems like “Trucker on the 401”, “Lucy and Desi”, and “Pamela for Mayor”; and strong identification with her Jewish self in “What Is a Jew”, “The Jewish Side of the Poem”, and “Be on Guard”.
An Iskov poem speaks with personal conviction and plainspoken pluck: “I am in charge,” says the narrator in “Bedtime Chimera”; “My depression is a page in your book,” she declares in “As One Cradles Pain”; “I remember the last time / I worked the street in high heels,” she says tongue-in-cheek in the savvy-shopper piece, cleverly titled “Cheap Love”.
There’s a strong thread of sadness underlying the humour and juxtaposed the easiness in many of these pieces. Humour is often a cover and a face for deep and complicated emotions, and it’s clear that I.B. Iskov has the latter. She reveals her own “Complicated Suffering and Personal Complexities”; remembers and pays tribute to those who have gone to the other side: the beloved people’s poet, Ted Plantos, in the surging opening poem “What Plantos Meant to Poets Trapped Within Socio-Economic Boundaries”; her girlfriends “Marilyn, Rhondi and Lolly” (lost to cancer) in “Making Macaroni and Cheese”; her mother in “Memory and Loss”; and the dead at large in “When the Dead Do not Depart”.
In possibly the most touching and illuminating piece in the chapbook, “Glass House”, the poet writes: “I open my cabinet doors, / rearrange familiar figurines … “I care for moments, dust them off, display them / on little easels. / I’m composed.” This could be the artist’s statement. She makes what she will of her life—delicately, deliberately and artfully, piece by piece.
Wallace Stevens wrote that “the poet is the priest of the invisible.” I submit that Bunny Iskov is the priestess of the visible. My Coming of Age is a collection that will let you know who I. B. Iskov is and what she stands for. (end of Elana Wolff’s review)
Additional information about I.B. Iskov appears here.
A blog post about her book Skirting the Edge appears here.
A blog post about her receipt of the 2017 Absolutely Fabulous Women Award for women over 40 for her contributions to the literary arts in the Golden Horseshoe area appears here.
Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society can be found on its website.
Follow this blog for future Canadian writer profiles.
Coming soon a question and answer feature with Tom Cull, London Ontario’s current Poet Laureate and a review of his debut book bad animals.
Later this year, more details about the Canadian launches of California-based anthologies LUMMOX 7 edited by Lummox Press publisher RD Armstrong and TAMARACKS edited by Canadian poet James Deahl and featuring an all Canadian line-up.
Plus, Sharon Berg’s re-introduction to CADENCE, a new folk art salon launching January 2019 in Sarnia, Ontario. Background information re: the former Cadence reading series appears here. Watch for a new partnership with the Lambton County Library.