Friday, April 21, 2017

Poetry Month: Thoughts on Two Titles

Before Poetry Month ends, I want to be sure to share some thoughts on a few more collections I've been dipping into over the past few weeks. Some have been brand-new, some a bit older; and some have really spoken to each other thematically. Here are two I've finished most recently.

Auguries / Clea Roberts
London: Brick Books, c2017.
103 p.

This is a newly released title from Brick Books, one of my favourite poetry houses. It's one of the titles from their spring releases, coincidentally all by women. This is Clea Roberts' second collection, after her well-received and award-nominated first book, Here is Where We Disembark. 

I have not read that one, but now that I've been introduced to her work through this new volume, I may have to go back and look for it. Her writing is spare and beautiful; the cover of this book reflects the spaciousness and the sense of "augury" that is revealed in both poems and title.

As the publisher's copy says about this book:

"Written during a period in which Roberts both became a parent and lost a parent, the poems in Auguries lend themselves to prayer, surrender, celebration, reconciliation, meditation, and auspice."

It's true that there is both life burgeoning and ending in these poems, both in relation to her family and to the wider world as well. Poems set during the stillness of winter, in spring which uncovers "the dull carcass / of the neighbour's cat/ emerging from the melting/ snowbank" alongside the new shoots and growth, over long summers. Though the poems are mostly brief, both in actual length and subject, there is a feeling of expansive attention throughout. The natural world is made present, in perfect balance with the small and domestic moments between parents and children. 

I enjoyed the way that domestic, textile references were sprinkled into Roberts' descriptions of both nature and abstract notions: 

They made it through / to spring that way, with duty / stitched onto them like a / button  (from "Getting Wood"

setting your stories / out for the last time, /  reupholstering those that / would allow you to lie / more peacefully  (from "Storytelling")

there was no path at all, / just the forest's worry of branches, / knitted together and waiting.  (from "A Small Legacy")

This was a lovely and quiet collection that draws out evocative imagery with simple, clear effect. It's one I'll revisit. 

Lake of Two Mountains / Arleen Paré  
London: Brick Books, c2014.
83 p.

Another Brick Books volume, this one is a bit older and an award-winner (2014 Governor General's Award). I read it way back then... and I have just reread it, enjoying just as much this time. 

I think it is just as much about a place as Auguries is; about the way a family inhabits its place, through both memories and movement into the future. In this volume, Paré examines her family's history with the Lake of Two Mountains - the summers they spent there as children, the fraught ideas of ownership (especially in "Whose Lake?"), the history of the land itself. 

She describes the physical landscape with as much detail and care as she does her family stories, and adds in stories of the Trappist monastery across the lake. There is a jumble of historical fact, a naturalist's eye, emotionally drawn moments, and awareness of the future. There are poems about the Oka Crisis of 1990 and related issues of human presence on the land. This book is like a busy painting that at first glance looks clear and serene, but as you get closer you see more and more detail in it. 

And it's also full of beautiful language, with metaphors from the natural world colouring the family's descriptions. The lake is breathing, alive. This is another collection that presents sharp, memorable images to the reader, revealed like innocuous dull stones that shine once they're gathered wet from the shore. 

If you'd like, you can find more reviews of this title and a recording of Paré reading from this book, over at the publisher's website. 

And, just until the end of April, Brick Books is having a big sale of all pre-2017 titles -- you can order them for only $10 each. What a steal! I recommend checking it out; I've found some real gems at Brick Books. 


  1. Lovely reviews, Melwyk! Both of these sound like wonderful collections.

    1. Brick Books is pretty reliable when it comes to great collections :) I've found some fabulous poets thanks to this publisher.


Thanks for stopping by ~ I always enjoy hearing your comments so please feel free to leave some!