Alisha Kaplan and Tobi Aaron Kahn’s Qorbanot: Offerings (SUNY Press, 2021) is a gift of candour, scholarship, history, and future. Its substantial, glossy pages relax open (on a table, a lap, into the reader’s palms) to insist that we take time to witness its shimmering dialogue between poet and painter. Qorbanot is a particularly complex gift (yes, of course—an offering) that urges us to accept both warmth and pain. I’ve never read a book of poems quite like it.
At first glance, Kahn’s paintings appear abstract, with controlled colour palettes, undulating shapes, and strong outlines—jarringly close (like microscope slides) or assertively distant (like topography). But to neglect the context of Kahn’s paintings—their titles (named “studies,” all), their intimate relationship with Kaplan’s polyphonic poems—is to close oneself off from the experience of Qorbanot. In dialogue with Kaplan, Kahn’s art becomes figurative and emotive, yet just out of reach, “like [prophets] looking into a dim glass” to glimpse God (110).Continue ReadingQorbanot: Offerings
Selina Boan’s debut poetry collection Undoing Hours (Nightwood Editions, 2021) sidelined me for weeks. Read a few pages, fill up on her heartfelt and playful language, feel the swell, come apart at the seams a little bit, put it down, try again; “take your mess / bless it and start over” (30).
Boan’s poems are topographical, concrete, resonant like “messages threading through roots” (62), footsteps, vibrating engines. They take all the time they need to warm up, to untangle themselves—and so you must (take your time, wait, return).
Settler and Nehiyaw herself, Boan presents Nêhiyawêwin (Cree) and English as tools that can explore, breach, or harvest from the body—“blood skin pus / where pain lets itself out little by little” (72)—while bodies, too, are celebrated as instruments for confronting, embracing, or disassembling language, “cracking his skull” (32). It’s a lot. In the best possible way, it’s a lot. Continue ReadingUndoing Hours
The summary and review excerpts on the front flap and back cover of Medrie Purdham’s Little Housewolf (Véhicule Press/Signal Poetry, 2021) celebrate the considerable skill with which the poet brings tiny, fragile objects into focus—often temporarily into life.
All this laudatory metadata is perfectly true, yet at odds with what I found most intriguing in Purdham’s collection: its teeming menagerie of birds. Whether as specimens or metaphors, lead actors or silhouettes, they are everywhere—roosting and nesting in more poems than not.
The book opens with “Hinge,” a meditation on a creaky old gate that I suspect of being narrated by three birds in a trench coat, pretending to be human: “And every day we came home / […]. Each to his identical little plot / piled high with long mouldy hay and lost plumage.”
From there, the game is afoot: where else are birds hiding in this book that so carefully minds things that are lost in pockets, rolled into corners, almost out of view?
If I could hold Little Housewolf to my ear like a seashell, who would be chirping in the background? In “Carapace,” for instance, the reader is invited to consider crab shells, yet a grandmother’s long-wounded foot has the unfeathered flesh of a newly hatched chick: “tended and collapsed / simmered red”—an image both delicate and unnerving, cooked and raw.
The Quiet is Loud (forthcoming from Invisible) is a zeitgeist zirconia, a choker of sparkling speculation for Gen Z readers whose reading tastes are migrating toward adult literary spec fic. For her debut novel, Toronto writer Samantha Garner pours her curiosity into an approachable, recognizable narrative structure that is just right for this audience: the world as we know it, but with one important, uncanny difference. In Quiet, that key difference is the existence of people with telepathic and telekinetic powers—“vekers.”
Garner is deeply attentive to the social consequences of the world she has created. As we might expect in a reboot of The Twilight Zone or in an X-Men spin off, vekers are misunderstood and feared; their nickname is a slur. Most have no choice but to hide their identities, including our protagonist, Freya. Though in her mid-20s, Freya’s maturity and independence are hindered by a childhood tragedy that occurred just as she was discovering her psychic abilities. With the support of a trusted cousin and a handful of new veker friends, Freya’s story becomes a coming-of-age narrative that allows her to develop and heal.
Did you attend the 2019 Atlantic International Film Festival? Are you planning to submit a film to the 2020 festival? We are now about half way between the ’19 and ’20 festivals so what better time to post a review? Last September, we sent our intrepid reviewer Corinne Gilroy to FIN. (Yes, the Atlantic International Film Festival is known as FIN. No, FIN is not an acronym; it’s just a name.) In the diary entries below, Corinne relates her experience at FIN, focusing on select films directed by or about women. Enjoy—and maybe we will see you next year!
Although 2019 was my first FIN, it wasn’t my first kick at the film canister. I was but a young whippersnapper, newly away at school, when the Tidal Wave (now Silver Wave) Film Festival launched in Fredericton in the early aughts. My friends and I made a November ritual of shuttling our bundled-up bodies between the rigid bear-trap seats of an old UNB auditorium and the drafty uptown multiplex. We wrung every last ounce of movie magic out of our student passes and cut our teeth on quirky world cinema in the process.Continue Reading Atlantic International Film Festival: Diary of a Feminist Film-Goer