Planning a winter escape? Try slipping a poetry anthology into your suitcase. I kid you not! Just because you became lost once or twice studying poetry in high school English class doesn’t mean the poetic journey is always a dense forest of words where your feet trip over meters and your eyes glaze over unfamiliar metaphors. Like with music, movies and novels, there are poetry books written to suit a variety of different tastes and styles. I must admit there was a time when I too didn’t quite understand poetry but now it consumes a large part of my life. The key is to find the poet and the poetic phrases that speak to you as an individual. An anthology helps to pull different voices together and then like a compass points you down different poetic paths. The reader is free to choose.
Below is my review of one of many Canadian anthologies available to the public to read. I must disclose that this particular series is dear to my heart because it spotlights and celebrates the work of many poets involved with The Ontario Poetry Society. In 2004, this grassroots organization grasped my unsteady literary hand and has since provided me with strength to not only write and share my poems but to create my own unique cobblestone road into the publishing jungle. I am forever thankful.
Edited and compiled by Fran Figge Cover Art by Lynn Tait
Spotlighting the work of Mark Clement, Norah Eastern, Silvana Sangiuliano, K.V. Skene and Ed Woods
Beret Days Press 2013, 72 pages
Bravo to The Ontario Poetry Society for showcasing the work of five more Canadian poets in the third anthology in their EnCompass series. Over 72 pages of eclectic work rolling onto the red carpet and stitched together in seamless fashion! Fran Figge sparkles in her debut as editor/compiler.
Mark Clement’s work starts off with a modified drum roll. His simple short lines mimic the rhythmic sound of drumbeats. He writes: “Beat/upon the empty drum/hear the hollow sound”. Best known for his tributes to nature, Mark uses sound words and haiku form to capture unique characteristics of autumn leaves, feathers, grass, water and “birds that sing in the dark”. His narrative people’s poet style often draws on humour to make the work stand out. His most memorable poems are Dear Dr. Leftover with a focus on “unemployed socks” and Grocery Store Man who shops for a poem in the food aisles.
In contrast, Norah Eastern’s work startles the reader but in a benevolent way. Drawing from her experiences as dance instructor and visual artist, Norah makes excellent use of visuals and rhythm in her work. She plays with her words. “It will crunch your savoury/soul, spitting out gritty pieces of art-ery like bone”. She not only masters more traditional forms of couplets, tercets and rhymes but also experiments with humour and surreal images such as “dip the hands of Dali’s clock/in dripping chocolate”. Her strength lies in injecting mundane subjects with thought provoking images. In Wildflowers, she writes “At twilight, rainbow hues of a/miniature snapdragon army/open their mouths and receive/the sacrament of raindrops”.
Silvana Sangiuliano’s collection of 14 poems showcases heartwarming odes to the river and sunshine as well as intimate and family love. Her work is filled with such words as caress, breath and soul and in one poem she writes “light penetrates the core of my being”. Her close attention to details is evident in this description of a child who “springs out of bed like a carefree slinky”. However, it doesn’t take long for the hardships of life to wear one down. Drawing from her Italian ancestry, she describes a wedding gown in the attic where “weeping/beads/hit/stained/hardwood”. Later “chocolate eyes melt” and “rosary beads scatter upon the floor”.
Like the wind, K. V. Skene pushes her images away from the traditional and nudges the reader to think beyond the horizon. As a veteran and award-winning poet, K.V. is at ease taking risks with language and poetic forms. Six of her poems stretch the wind theme and includes the flight of starlings and strings cut from kites. In the poem Bliss, she sarcastically writes “Behind/you roars the bloody dawn/cheering you on.” In another poem “I will listen while I inhale/exhale with the wind”. Other poems focus on ageing and dying: “that last gasp as youth/fades with the wallpaper” and “you can calculate her years/in ripples”. As she describes the world in chaos she adds “we may find an odd relaxation, a heightening/an unquantifiable joy in the irrational insanities/of the human heart.”
Of all the poets, Ed Woods uses the most minimalist style to describe topics as love, family, illness, dying and city life. His work can be tender and sensual or gritty depending on his topic. In his poem Bliss when the main character wakes from a dream: “rain pelts a dirty window/of basement existence”. The poem Angel Softness describes the process of dying and compares angels to UFOs. He shares the view of city nightlife from the perspective of a snow plow operator and describes a problem in urban sprawl where the rich “basks in a better view/than a shingled sunset.”
To read just one poem is not enough. While this anthology offers an assorted platter of rich-creamy voices, it also tempts the reader to seek out additional work by those poets they favour the most.
For more information about the EnCompass anthology series, check out The Ontario Poetry Society website.