PRISM 53.2 Winter 2015

532_storeThe first PRISM of the new year will be arriving on news stands and in subscribers’ mailboxes shortly! We’ve already released a couple samples from the issue: the poem “Tar Songs: Maestro” by Laurelyn Whitt and an excerpt from Trisha Cull’s essay “Warren.” A few days from now you’ll be able to read the rest, but for now, we’ll give you the rundown:

The non-fiction pieces in 53.2 hold relationships under a close-up lens, exploring connections by examining the details. Ayelet Tsabari writes about flying insects and a long-distance relationship in “Hornets” while Trisha Cull reflects on memories of her stepfather in “Warren.” In the personal essay “Correctives,” Liz Windhorst Harmer contemplates her own relationship with vision, perception, and beauty after undergoing laser eye surgery.

On the fiction side, PRISM 53.2 features an eclectic mix of short stories, each of which reveals the unexpected in some way. Online dating takes an unconventional turn in Sarah Meehan Sirk’s story, “The Date.” “Graduation” by Amanda Leduc is a subtle portrait of a married couple and their houseguest, while Charlotte Bondy’s “Naked in a Dirty Lake” follows three university students on an acid-fuelled walk through Toronto. Finally, Mark Jordan Manner’s piece, “King Arthur On Fire,” tells the story of three young girls and their fascination with a neighbourhood lawn decoration.

For poetry, we are on an (almost) 100% CanCon diet this Winter. Opening with five poems by Montreal poet and editor Robyn Sarah, we move across the country, gathering up poets of all stripes along the way: Stephanie Yorke (UK, via Truro, NS), Stephen Brockwell (Ottawa, ON), Don Coles (Toronto, ON), Rocco de Giacomo (Toronto, ON), Pamela Mordecai (Kitchener, ON), Laurelyn Whitt (Minnedosa, MB), Alice Major (Edmonton, AB), Russell Thornton (North Vancouver, BC), and Susan Alexander (Bowen Island, BC). Our “almost” exception to the all-CanCon rule comes in the form of a poem in translation: Toronto poet Patricia Hanley translates the work of Marina Moretti of Trieste, Italy. The poems themselves range widely in subject matter: from travel, to children, to tar sands, to tweets, we’ve got a little something for everyone.

But don’t take our word for it – strap on your crampons and climb to your favourite newsstand for a copy! Or click here to buy a copy from our online store.

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A review of “The Lost Letters”: “Greenwood is full of surprises…”


Catherine Greenwood book coverReview by Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt

The Lost Letters
Catherine Greenwood
Brick Books, 2013

A good poem has the ability to find a passage into its readers’ minds and then set up camp there, remaining with them years after they’ve read it. That was my experience after reading Catherine Greenwood’s visceral “The Texada Queen” back in 2012, when it was shortlisted for the CBC Canada Writes Poetry Prize. Once her collection The Lost Letters—which includes “The Texada Queen”—was released, I read it with the hope of finding more of this poem’s kin. But while “The Texada Queen” is based on Greenwood’s father, few family members feature as her subjects. As in her first poetry collection, The Pearl King (2004, Brick Books), most of the poems featured in The Lost Letters were inspired by historical figures; namely, teenaged student Heloise and Peter Abelard, the twelfth century teacher who seduced and impregnated her. While their story ends in tragedy on all counts—Heloise unwillingly joins a convent and Abelard is castrated by Heloise’s uncle—Greenwood gives it an update, calling into question the meaning of devotion in contemporary settings that range from a correctional facility to an office cubicle.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to make of Greenwood’s work when I opened the book to the first of four sections. “From the Hymnal” features a single poem, titled “Monk Love Blues,” which reads like blues lyrics, comically recounting one woman’s pining for a clergyman: “See when I say monk / I ain’t talkin Thelonious. / The monk love I’m feelin / done verge on felonious.” (3) Does serious poetry have to be serious? Surely not. But in this case, Greenwood’s use of rhyme (“Feed him raw oyster? / He heads for the Cloister” [4]) and word play (“I’d get on my knees for you” [4]) falls short of exceptional and in my view, trivializes the Heloise and Abelard story to come. I was left wondering whether it was the best place to open the collection.

Greenwood is full of surprises, the next being my discovery that this is not a conceptually cohesive collection. “Turtle Soup” explores the realm of animals, from the bushtit to the housecat. Although the book jacket led me to expect unrequited love, I was won over by the tenderness with which Greenwood leads us into critter territory, where the mood is quiet and speculative and hardly done justice by its title. Here, we witness a hamster who “bathes in dewdrops,” finding her head “crammed with miniscule worries, / briefcase cheeks stuffed full.” (9) In “A Silver-Haired Bat Caught in a Ceiling Lamp,” an existential struggle ends in relief when “Singing, [he] re-enters the night.” (14) Although much of the poetry in this section was memorable, my favourite poem was “Lizard,” in which a reptile contemplates the loss and re-growth of his tail:

… The body,
seeking the faint trail of matter
spattered in the dust, insists upon

its own method of remembering.

The next section, titled “Dear Peter,” at last takes us to the love story promised—and it doesn’t disappoint. Most of the poems suggest Heloise’s perspective and are written in a voice that is memorable for its sardonic flair. The approach varies from a description of the film adaptation of the Heloise and Abelard story in “Prequel”: “the guy playing you / throttles himself convincingly enough” (31), to a nun’s night out at the cinema in “Singalong Sound of Music“: “the manager refused / to honour my vow of poverty / by issuing free tickets.” (34) The richness of scenes and settings is what struck me in “Dear Peter.” For instance, in “Yes and No,” we observe Abelard packing up his apartment:

… you on your knees
after midnight in the circum-
fused light of one unpacked lamp,
trying in vain to fit everything in.
As if an earthquake had shaken
open all the cupboards in your head,
the floor was strewn with pill
bottles, undeveloped negatives,
pages of sheet music out of
Guitar Hits from the Sixties
and the same leaky wineskin
we used on our honeymoon.

The collection finds its end in “The Lost Letters,” a section of seven poems. A few of the poems evoke small town British Columbia through the mention of mills, wildlife, and even a graffiti-tagged totem. Among them, “Company Town” feels like a place many a Canadian reader  knows:

In the softwood-scented bar
of the last hotel open for business, no one talks
layoffs anymore but severance
packages, retraining, NHL –

Still, this section has a few misses, particularly “Blue Pumps” for symbols that I’m not sure what to make of: “If red shoes make you dance, do blue shoes make you fly?” (66) and “The Jar,” which featured unsurprising language and a predictable narrative. Among the bunch, “The Texada Queen” remains unforgettable for its sense of corporal urgency:

…And then the hour

of my birth arrives in a vivid flood–
“Like a wee skinned rabbit you were,” he beams–
and brings me up squalling, covered in blood.

It’s safe to say that like “The Texada Queen,” a handful of poems in this collection are truly memorable, truly rare. Although the thematic organization of this book bothered me at first, the individual merit of the last three sections nearly makes up for it—in this case, the whole is the sum of its parts. What stayed with me was Greenwood’s ability to create worlds unto themselves, each with its own backdrop and cast of characters. The contemplative livelihoods of animals, the devotion between Heloise and Abelard that spurred tragedy, and the casual ruin of west coast industry towns are equally vivid. I want to believe that placed side-by-side, these themes may actually enrich each other, but I can’t help but wonder how they would fare if they’d been given the chance to stand alone.

Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt is a Montreal-based writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her work has appeared in Riddle Fence, Verge Magazine, and Arbitrage.Visit her at

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The Tuesday Prompt: Before and After

We hope you are enjoying our series of pug-related (or very vaguely associated) prompts. It’s part of the lead-up to the launch of our Spring issue – it will all make sense very soon…

Characters (and pugs) change. Put very simply, that’s what a story is about. There are countless ways to show these changes. I’m always interested in finding different ways to show this, particularly in subtle ways. So that’s what today’s prompt is about: showing change through physicality and action.

What’s a significant event that your character experiences? In can be small or large as long as it affects your protagonist in a tangible way.

Think of an action your character does regularly-goes to work, goes swimming every morning, walks their pug… Describe this, in detail, on a normal day.

Consider that significant event. How does it change your character? What effect does it have on them? Now describe that same event again, but show the difference in your protagonist. Is their walk different? Do they commute the same way? Swim at the same speed? In work, are they more productive or less? There are many different nuances you can experiment with that add up. And you can do all this without ever having up refer to the event itself.

Good luck!

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“A line, in fact, is immeasurable”: an Interview with Gillian Sze

PRISM editorial board member Melissa Bull interviews Gillian Sze.


Gillian Sze’s latest collection, Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014), was shortlisted for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She is also the author of The Anatomy of Clay (ECW Press, 2011) and Fish Bones (DC Books, 2009), which was shortlisted for the QWF McAuslan First Book Prize. Her work has appeared in a number of national and international journals, and has received awards such as the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and the 2011 3Macs carte blanche Prize. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Concordia University and is working on her doctoral thesis at the Université de Montréal.

Congratulations on your beautiful book, Peeling Rambutan. Can you tell me a bit about how you came to write this collection?

Six years ago, I accompanied my parents to China and had the opportunity to return with them to their home villages. We also followed my grandparents and great-grandmother’s routes to Malaysia, and other parts of South China. I never intended to write a collection about the trip, but, as you’d expect, something so personal and embedded in history would seep into my writing. For a writer, such a trip is just one big and generous gift.

I noticed you dedicated this book to your great-grandmother. Did you ever meet her? What is the link?

I did – but so much of how I know her is through stories. My maternal great-grandmother was the matriarch of the family and deeply respected. There’ve been so many tales about this woman: how her stepmother insisted she have her feet bound, how she still worked the fields, how she raised two small children on her own, how she was a devout Buddhist but believed that goodness in any religion was the crucial doctrine. She was also very liberal and was known to insist on the equality between men and women – which was rare for someone born in 1895, living in a country where sons are revered and preferred (still) over daughters. By the time I was born, she was in her nineties, living in a nursing home in Vancouver. She was always the first person we’d see after driving the two days from Winnipeg. So for me, my great-grandmother came to represent so many things: Woman, strength, duty, storytelling, and history. She passed at the ripe age of 104.

At the age of 104! How incredible. I love the way the notion of inheritance reveals itself in everyday details in your work. Can you talk about the poetry of the aphorisms, superstitions, and recipes alluded to and included in this work? What do they mean to you?

rambcovSo much of Chinese culture is, at its foundation, poetic. Our language and everydayness are steeped in mythology, superstitions, and deep history. Rhyming idioms were scattered throughout my childhood. We recited Chinese poetry in our Saturday Mandarin School. There’s something distilled in the Chinese character (which is derived from pictographs), so that even a single word can tell a story by its strokes. A word is compact – both in its visual presentation, and in its meaning. Each graphical component, unique in its own sense, lends itself to the whole significance of the word. So it’s no surprise, for instance, that the radical for “female” (女) is attached to characters that mean “mother,” “older sister,” “younger sister,” and so on. In “East is behind the tree,” I touch on the metaphor found in the assemblage of the Chinese character:

Peace is a woman rooted beneath a roof. Brightness is the sun beside the moon. Leisure is moonlight through an open gate. East is the sun behind a tree.

It continues to fascinate. I don’t know Chinese intuitively – English very nearly beat it as my first language – so I continue to live a little outside of the words. The language, its imagism and synthetic structure, still remain strange for me. To examine my heritage, ethnicity, and family history is to encounter this strangeness.

In the same vein, food and flowers have such delicate and vital positions in your poems. Can you tell me how the fruits and flowers of nature play into your work?

Every culture has a different relationship to its ecosystem. Flora are everywhere in Chinese painting and poetry. Everything is symbolic, meaningful, lucky, or inauspicious. In the chapter on sex imagery in the Chinese language, Lin Yutang tells us that even “the dew dropping in the peony flower is decidedly obscene.” Nothing is just one thing – that’s obvious enough – but it continues to be infinitely alluring.

Can you tell us a bit about “rambutan”? Can you talk a bit about “peeling”?

The first time I saw a rambutan was in Malaysia. It’s an odd looking fruit: aggressive, hairy, unearthly. You break it open by splitting it in the middle and peeling back its shell. Inside is a smooth, translucent, white fruit that’s sweet, much like a lychee. I bring up the rambutan in my poem, “Eating Fruit,” which is a poem about encountering and savouring new foods. I like the word “peel” for the book as a whole. The stripping off and uncovering (or discovering) something foreign, different, novel, other.

There is a lot of prose poetry in this collection. Did anything or anyone in particular draw you to this form?

Stuart Ross, who read an earlier draft of this manuscript, really pushed me to make use of the prose poem form. I initially had only a few prose poems, but I think Stuart’s suggestion immediately opened more possibilities when I allowed myself to switch from the rhythm of a verse to the flow of a sentence. In my revisions, I turned to the sentence because I preferred its roominess. Unlike my other collections, this one had a distinct temporal trajectory from childhood to the present, interspersed with recent and deep family history. I like the prose poem because it gave me some space to explore time, to slow down experience, and to maintain narrative.

“Always, our lines will lean against the night. Always, I will teach you how to walk in snow.” Tell me about “lines”. Lines as lineage? Lines as inheritance? Lines as calligraphy? Lines as poetry?

Probably the most important fact about a line is something that everyone learns in elementary geometry. What we draw as a line is really a line segment. A line, in fact, is immeasurable. It has no end points; rather, it continues to extend in both directions indefinitely. Always.

Melissa Bull is a writer, editor and translator based in Montreal. Her writing has been featured in Event, Matrix, Lemon Hound, Broken Pencil, The Montreal Review of Books, Playboy and Maisonneuve. She has translated such authors as Kim Thuy, Évelyne de la Chenlière, Raymond Bock, Alexandre Soublière and Maude Smith Gagnon for various publications, including Maisonneuve, where she is the editor of the “Writing from Quebec” column. Her translation of Nelly Arcan’s Burqa de chair was just published and her collection of poetry, Rue, is forthcoming.

Gillian Sze‘s latest collection of poetry is Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014).

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Going Down Swinging: Lingua Fracas

Here’s our monthly offering from our pals at Going Down Swinging

One of Australia’s oldest and strangest literary publishers, Going Down Swinging was conceived in 1979. It now produces print anthologies, audio recordings, multimedia publications, live events and a very busy website.

We’re happy to be able to team up with Going Down Swinging and introduce Australian writers to our PRISMers–and vice versa. We’ll be swapping articles and interviews once a month, so keep an eye out…



It was a cold, still morning when English invaded your homeland. It did so swiftly, under the cover of product placement and modern slang. Like everything worthwhile in the art of war, English struck viciously and without mercy. There were a few prisoners. (Though they called themselves bilingual, they were more like POWs with job prospects.) But as we all know, English is a mongrel army at best. A motley regiment that rarely obeys rules and indentures its captives to fight for it, turning them into words or phrases that their homeland wouldn’t recognise. Linguistic imperialism is a double-edged sword, and using it makes for the most complex fog of war ever.

Obfuscating language during wartime has a history longer than the Hundred Years’ War, but less obvious, and perhaps even more insidious, is the regulation and criminalisation of other languages.

During World War I, America was the scene of an ambitious linguistic genocide of the German language. This was all the more ambitious because, at the time, German was the second-most commonly spoken language in the United States. Despite this, eliminating the language was seen as a way to put a stop to spies. Just like any good warfare tactic, undermining German was achieved through a pincer movement, though this one used legislation and educational assaults.

Initially it was just a ‘phasing out’ – and in ways that might seem ludicrously patriotic. Streets were renamed, publishers were urged not to produce German titles, and even everyday items such as ‘sauerkraut’ morphed into the far more logical ‘liberty cabbage’. (This would happen again later with ‘Freedom Fries’ – petty revenge for France’s opposition towards the Iraq War). As a German speaker in wartime America, you might well have felt uncomfortable, and may have complained quietly in your mütter tongue, but once laws were introduced your feeling of being an unwanted alien would have crystallised.


In June 1917, the Trading with the Enemy Act was passed. The aim of this act was, ostensibly, to impose embargoes on Germany and its allies, but the result was a suppression of foreign language productions – making it illegal to mail non-English printed matter without a certified English translation.

On May 23, 1918, Iowa governor William Harding banned the use of any foreign language in public. In the end, 18,000 people were charged in the Midwest with violating the various new English-only statutes. The casualties of war were not simply the number of students studying German in high schools, which dropped from 25 to 0.8 percent, but foreign language studies as a whole, with immigrant languages throughout America falling into decline.

Of course, two can play at this game. Robert Phillipson, in his work Linguistic Imperialism, demonstrates how the advance of the English language was blamed by the Nazis during World War II and the Soviets during the Cold War “for the destruction of western civilisation”.

It would be nice to think that linguistic racism stopped in America after World War I, but whether due to continued tensions, the flow-on effect of wartime laws, or as part of a growing hostility towards non-Americans, there continued to be legal penalties and restrictions for bilinguals living in the United States. In 1921, at least four US states passed laws making these aliens ineligible to own property, buy stock in American corporations, or to work in government offices or on public works projects – though these laws were sadly not recent inventions. That same year New York entertained a law to ban public speech in any language other than English, while also instituting English literacy tests for voters. ‘Literacy tests’ has a worryingly familiar ring to it, even today.

Language propaganda in the United States during WWII.

Language propaganda in the United States during WWII.

Forcing language use in this manner – whether in a totalitarian state to keep out unwanted enemies, or in WWI America – can have the duel effect of marginalising unwanted ‘others’ while at the same time striking a blow at their culture, which a government might seek to suppress. All in the name of patriotism.

Language as a basis for militaristic movements is not at all limited to the past. Recently, Vladimir Putin justified his annexation of Crimea on the grounds that he owed protection to Russian speakers everywhere. While the actual reasons are likely to be far more complex, his comment still inspired a world of redrawn linguistic borders scathingly crafted by The Economist.

Just as borders shift, so too does meaning – especially when related to military language. In the US, ‘enhanced interrogation’ of terror subjects involves techniques such as ‘rectal feeding’ and a ‘series of near drownings’. Only now has The New York Times decided it will actually use the word ‘torture’ for these acts. This raises the question as to whether definitions have any bearing on past events, and whether our understanding of the atrocities of war shift as our means of expressing them does too. This change may be a long time coming, considering the United State Department of Justice has announced it won’t prosecute those involved with the interrogation program.

Subjugating, stigmatising and repurposing language are common examples of linguistic imperialism. As a bloodless invasion technique, its effectiveness has been proved over several centuries and several unfortunate cultures. And it is here where I think rests one of the most striking concerns of how language might evolve – into warfare.

Latin, the lingua franca of the Roman Empire, was forced on most of Europe. Mandarin has almost entirely consumed Tibet and minority Chinese languages. There are plenty historical examples of language being suppressed, and in many cases this mirrors the culture and people being subjugated.

That said, language use is never simple, and there are historic counterexamples to the idea of linguistic imperialism. In 1976, up to 20,000 schoolchildren in the Soweto township of South Africa staged a protest against being taught in Afrikaans. This wasn’t so much a preference for any particular language, as it was a refusal to speak the language used by apartheid authorities to control and monitor them. As described by Desmond Tutu, Afrikaans was seen as “the language of the oppressor” and a way of discouraging critical thinking – where the students had to exert their energies simply on understanding the language rather than the subject. Somewhere between two hundred and six hundred children died in their refusal to speak Afrikaans.

This may sound excessive, but if language can enslave, it stands to reason that it can also set you free.

Rafael S. W. is a graduate of creative writing and one of the founding members of Dead Poets’ Fight Club. He has been published in VoiceworksGoing Down Swinging No. 33,the current print/audio edition No. 35, and Dot Dot Dash. He also competes in poetry slams and giant-sized chess games.

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Tuesday Prompt: Pug Life, or How to Insert More Pug into Your Life

pug-life-funny-picturesYou may find yourself asking, “How can I possibly insert more pug into my life?” Or, more likely, “Do I even want more pug in my life?” The answers: you can and you do. This Tuesday’s prompt is all about incorporating pugs into your poetry. We can make it a new trend in Can Lit. Instead of pines, think pug.

A great way to start integrating more pug into your poetry is to pick a poetic form. So many you’ve always wanted to write a sestina and just have no idea what content would fit the form. Wikihow offers a pretty darn good explanation on how to write the form. Now, you’ve decided that your sestina is going to be about pugs, so you choose six words that come to mind when you think of one: drool, wrinkles, tongue, snort, pug, and sausage. Deciding on the order might be a little tricky, but play around with it.

If sestinas aren’t really your thing, may I suggest a concrete poem that looks like a pug.

If sestinas and concrete poems aren’t your thing, may I suggest the sonnet. Who wouldn’t love a killer sonnet dedicated to pugs? That would be one fantastic volta.

Okay, okay. I think I know what you’re thinking: PRISM is off its rockers. Yes, yes we are. But the point of this prompt is to write about what you love even if people think it’s ridiculous, boring, and pointless. I often berate myself for writing about the suburbs any and every chance I get. I’m obsessed with them! People know this and sometimes roll their eyes and say, “What a surprise. Claire wrote another poem about the suburbs.” (For the record, I’m not friends with people who say that and you shouldn’t be either.) Sometimes, writers just need to exhaust their muse until it’s done and they can move on to something else. We’ve all heard the advice before: write what you’re passionate about, write the poem you want to read, write what you love. So why aren’t we doing that all the time? People’s judgement and our own judgement.

And if you already write what you love all the time, just try something different. Write that pug concrete poem or that pug sestina!

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Review: Glad and Sorry Seasons

51MvukNzi7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Review by Ruth Daniell

Glad and Sorry Seasons
Catherine Chandler
Biblioasis, 2014


Catherine Chandler’s Glad and Sorry Seasons is a successful illustration of the ways in which we as humans search for meaning in the face of passing time, the way in which we take pleasure and comfort in ordinary details and are simultaneously baffled and pained by them. The juxtaposition of artificiality, the poet’s expert use of constrained poetic forms—especially her characteristic sonnets—and a piercing sincerity makes this collection aching and beautiful.

In the collection’s opening poem, a sonnet titled “Coming to Terms”, the speaker struggles with the loss of a child. Chandler writes: “[I] go about / my business as my crooked smile displays / the artful look of ordinary days” (11). It is this blend of the “artful” and the “ordinary” that really strikes me. In the opening poem the speaker is bowled over with grief, “in search of you [the lost child]. And God.” She describes this grief through specific actions: discarding maternity clothes, peeling away ceiling stars, and unweaving “the year I’d entered on your christening dress.” Everyday actions, domestic activity and “ordinary days” are things we rely on for meaning in times of confusion and grief. Chandler mimics the momentum of moving on—searching for meaning or God or happiness—with the momentum of her metre and her rhyme. I was reminded of William Wordsworth’s “Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room,” in which he points out that structure can be an enormous consolation in the hugeness of life. The search for solace within and through poetic forms is strengthened through Chandler’s attention to everyday details and activity, the duplicity of a very human inward intensity and a controlled outward presentation.

Woven throughout the book are earnest joys and frustrations about love, faith, doubt, and how to survive winter, as in “Full Snow Moon”, which begins with the simple statement: “The moon is full again.” (15) The speaker observes the full moon, the “latticed frost” on her window, and “the crystal crust / of Lake Saint Louis glows as if embossed / with pearls” and relays this information back to the readers so that we are struck with the beauty of the winter scene. The speaker’s exhaustion with winter and her inability to find answers about how to live in the world, however, are revealed as she expands her portrait of the personified moon:

… she’s counted on,
through human inconsistency and pride,
to reverence the rising sun each dawn
and keep her promise to the ocean tide.

It is difficult not to empathize with the speaker when she discovers that the moon’s promises are not enough consolation: the moon “is a distant, lurid face, / her silent O no answer as to how / on earth I’ll ever … muddle through to spring.” The poem admits to “human inconsistency” and the human desire for consistency, our need to make meaning out of things like the moon and the passing of months, and it is for this (in)consistency that I encourage you to pick up this book.

“Intervals” is one of the most moving poems in Glad and Sorry Seasons, in which a man with Alzheimer’s tries to catalogue his life The desire for control—expressed aurally through the rhyme and controlled metre—juxtaposed against portraits of such failed attempts at memory-keeping, and meaning-making is striking and sad and, it seems to me, hopeful. Though it seems as though asserting control and finding meaning is often futile, the individuals in Chandler’s poem keep trying. This hope is important to the success of the book. While the poems, like “Intervals,” are sometimes at risk of sentimentality, with the music of the poems highlighting the drama of the “sorry seasons,” overall the tightness of the forms support the poems’ explorations, carrying them beautifully with their full emotional weight.

“It’s raining” (“Il pleut” by Albert Lozeau) is one of the ten translations in the collection, and it returns to the idea that a poem—whether a sonnet or not—can be a place to carry sorrows: “Poets, hold your hearts / like baskets out, despite your pain.” (56) As a whole, however, it is still the hope, the reaching-after for meaning, that strikes me most about the whole collection. Chandler’s sense of longing and joy is particularly wonderful in “Sonnet Love” (41) where her speaker says, “I love the way we’re called to referee / the mind-heart match-up in its scanty ring” and concludes by observing “Life’s unpredictability defies / clean dénouement. I love the way it tries.” The book acknowledges the pain and messiness of life and the way that we, as humans, try to shape the unshapeable in order to feel like it makes sense to keep on going.

Note: Although many of the poems don’t give a direct indication of gender identity, for readability, I’ve referred to the speaker of the poems using female pronouns.

Ruth Daniell was named the winner of the 2014 Young Buck Poetry Prize by Contemporary Verse 2 and is a current nominee for the Pushcart Prize for poetry published in One Throne Magazine. Originally from Prince George, BC, she now lives in Vancouver, where she runs Swoon, a literary reading series on love and desire that she founded in 2013. She has been honoured twice on the longlist for the CBC Poetry Prize. Her poems and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in various journals across North America and online, including The Malahat Review, Room Magazine, The Maynard and Arc. 

Buy the book here:

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