Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reprint: Contemporary Verse 2

From the Winter/Hiver 2012 issue of Contemporary Verse 2, written by Fiona Timwei Lam:

"Ariel Gordon's Hump is replete with poems that evoke the intricate textures, sounds and colours of nature.

In the opening poem, "Spring in Assiniboine Forest," the narrator clambers through the moss, roots, mushrooms, spores, roots and mud to the sound of the bullfrogs' "balloon-rub chorus." The other poems in the section continue delving into the fecundity of the natural world, exploring the shifting seasons and the borders between city and countryside. The book then moves into the intimate realm with poems flecked with humour. "Tit Poem" portrays a sister's feistiness before and after a mastectomy. "Somniliquy" and "Pre-conception" depict the narrator's tender exasperation at her husband's vocalizations and snoring that wake her at night.

Hump's second section is devoted to the gestational countdown before giving birth, from two months of pregnancy to nine. The sense of abundance in this section mirrors that of the first, as Gordon carefully layers image after evocative image to vividly convey the sensations of a body irrevocably transitioning into the maternal. For example, in one poem the narrator's body is described in terms of "loamy curves of battered clay," and in another poem, it is a "dip & dunk tank, the basin overflowing." The title of one of my favourite poems in the book, "Eight months: what to expect when you're expecting," plays on the title of a popular textbook for expectant mothers. Gordon cleverly arranges and transforms the usual barrage of unsolicited advice received by most pregnant women into deft, wry couplets. Expectant mothers might want to make multiple photocopies of the poem to hand it out each time they receive another "helpful" suggestion.

The third section is devoted to the experience of new motherhood, containing richly sensual poems that depict the sleeplessness, lack of of personal space and endless cycles of breastfeeding. In one poem, the narrator laments, "there is no poetry in sour two-day-old laundry/ & greasy crumbs in the seams of my days." However, the book comes full circle with poems that return to nature, with the narrator now accompanied by her toddler as they witness and experience the natural world together - from being assailed by cankerworms rappelling from an infested ancient elm, to tiptoeing over worms and snails during a walk in the park.

Gordon has already received accolades for this book, including the Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry in 2011. Brimming with finely crafted poems that thrum with life and love, Hump is indeed a very promising debut."

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My first lit review! Excelsior!

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