Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry

I think Rock Salt may be the best poetry anthology I’ve read (and having been an English teacher, I’ve read a few).

My Rock Salt is all tabbed with various Post-It flags, most of them to bring me back to poems that I want to revisit, either because I liked them or I wasn’t sure if I liked them. I also tabbed quite a few of the poets’ statements, which can be pretty dry (why I became a poet, yada yada yada), but then there are a few gems that make reading the statements worthwhile. To name one, Ed Varney’s poet’s statement is a list of what poetry is not (“Poetry is not song, no rhymes, not versification, not poesy, not linguistic gymnastics, not language cleansed and purified, not a lyrical expression of what’s bothering you...”). I also found Eve Joseph's first : “Poetry is smarter than I am; it knows things before I do and pays attention where I am oblivious.” (I feel that way about writing in general, but it makes particular sense with poetry.)

My least favorite poems tend to be political poems, because they often feel petty and ignorant. I barely glanced at one poem because the poet’s statement said, “Because the US—and US capitalism—are presently the dominant, brutal, imperialist forces most perverting Canadian democracy, justice, freedom and love of the Good, I must write about US Capitalist Imperialism,” and that rankled me all the way to my (oh-so-American) toenails because that declaration seemed so thoughtless and media-fed, and though I’m sure he was certain that his statement looked educated and bold, I couldn’t take his perspectives about anything seriously after that.

I prefer narrative poetry, poetry full of imagery, and I enjoy poetry that sits prettily on a page (even if I don’t understand it)—poetry that sticks with me, like “Avatar” by Iain Higgins, with lines like, “… He spoke / his love in a language of consonants like fishbones / in a slit throat…” and from “The Unremembered” by Peter Levitt, “There is no way to put it back together, / there is nothing to put, no back, / and together is a close approximation, / a flash of what only seemed.”

“Fixer-Uppers” by Sean Horlor is a delightful poem about relationships (presumably failed) that starts:

They all said there’s something you should know
About me they all asked why
Haven’t I met someone like you
Before they all said yes they all said please

The lines continue to run into each other, blurring and becoming more dizzying, both humorous and a little pathetic in regards to how it portrays relationships.

There are so many more I want to share, but instead I can only recommend that you seek it out yourself. I am very glad to have this poetry anthology on my shelves.

The cover painting is "The Poet and The Musicians" by Diana Dean, a Salt Spring artist, oil on canvas.
Many thanks to those at Mother Tongue Press for sending me a review copy.


Zibilee said...

I have never really been into poetry, except during my teen angst years when I wrote quite a lot of it. Although I have not really read a lot of poetry, the two poems you quoted in your review do make me want to explore this book further. I am quite surprised by this because I generally wouldn't seek out a book of poetry, good review or not!

Ali said...

I'm thinking about reading more poetry for Nymeth's Mini Challenge for the Dewey's Books Challenge--this looks like a good place to start!