Review by Annick MacAskill
Last October, my friend David Alexander (Modern Warfare, Anstruther Press, 2016) and I went to an Anstruther Press and Baseline Press chapbook launch to see a few poets we knew. When I heard Aidan Chafe read from his debut chapbook, Sharpest Tooth (Anstruther Press, 2016), I immediately wanted to buy his collection. I was drawn by Chafe’s strong imagery and measured, almost laconic consideration of the destructive ferocity and violence of the natural and human worlds.
When I saw that Chafe had released a second chapbook, Right Hand Hymns (Frog Hollow Press, 2017), I was eager to read his new work. The theme of violence continues in this collection, but instead of exploring this theme in poems about hunting, woods, and wolves, Right Hand Hymns evokes a similar wildness and chaos in poems about family, religion, and mental health.
Compiled and introduced by Rob Taylor Poet and editor Elise Partridge passed away in early 2015, months shy of seeing the publication of her third poetry collection, The Exile’s Gallery (Anansi, 2015), and soon after poems from that book appeared in...
Review by Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt
It’s tempting to call Next Year, For Sure, a novel about a millennial couple that happens upon polyamory, a “light” read. Because in many ways, it is a light read. Award-winning short story writer and debut novelist Zoey Leigh Peterson’s prose is deceptively addictive, the kind of writing that can easily keep a reader up until two or three in the morning. (I read it twice; I stayed up late finishing it both times.) Her main characters, nine-years-and-still-going-strong couple Chris and Kathryn, are sensitive and self-aware yuppie Vancouverites who verge on being likeable to a fault. The novel opens with Chris telling Kathryn he has a crush on Emily, a woman he met at the laundromat. Kathryn suggests he take her out on a date, the plot takes off at a brisk pace, alternating between Chris and Kathryn’s point of view as they navigate opening their relationship up to a third person over the course of the year that follows.
Review by Will Preston
On a dark night in 1920s Mississippi, the story goes, the bluesman Robert Johnson walked out to the crossroads and sold his soul to the Devil. He was gifted with a preternatural ability to play the guitar in return: the strings bending beneath his fingers, his voice filled with what sounded like the anguish of generations. When he died mysteriously at 27, he left behind almost nothing, just a scattering of records and a swirling fog of myths. Johnson’s songs feel bracingly authentic to this day, filled with the violence and repression facing blacks in the Depression-era South. But the stories told of his life are anything but authentic. Johnson’s identity was hijacked in the decades after his death, largely by white fans eager to spread legends and half-truths about the voice in their record player. This was not an unusual legacy for black, pre-war blues musicians. “White urbanites reshaped the music to fit their own tastes and desires,” the historian Elijah Wald has written, “creating a rich mythology that often bears little resemblance to the reality of the musicians they admired.”
There is a Johnson-esque character at the heart of Hari Kunzru’s new novel, White Tears, a 1920s bluesman named Charlie Shaw. Like Johnson, Shaw is a ghost, a shadowy figure who made a single recording in 1928—an eerie, haunted song called “Graveyard Blues”—and then vanished without a trace. When the record is unearthed in present-day New York and posted on the Internet, it sparks a frenzy among record collectors who are captivated by Shaw’s voice, “ancient and bloody and violent,” rising up from the crackle. It’s the kind of voice that burrows inside the listener, straight to “the guiltiest of his secrets.” (166)
Gaspereau Press, 2016
Review by Steven Brown
It’s a brave thing to do, forging a plan to write a poem a week during your wife’s pregnancy when the subject of these poems will be your wife’s pregnancy. The poet can’t guarantee what’s going to happen because anything might happen. Life is fragile. And a bit of a gamble.
We are so excited to announce that, along with our ongoing prose, poetry, and theatre reviews, we will be adding chapbooks to the review mix! From Anstruther Press and above/ground press to Rahila’s Ghost and dancing girl press, we love...
Meticulous, Sad and Lonely Ian Roy BuschekBooks, 2015 Review by Samarra Goldglas A boy kills his brother for some peace and quiet, a baby regularly grows nickels behind his ear, and a neglectful father escapes a mugging by screaming...
Review by Robert Colman The Witch of the Inner Wood M. Travis Lane Goose Lane Editions, 2016 M. Travis Lane has had a long and distinguished poetry career in Canada. Hers may not be quite the household name as...