Kelly Shepherd’s Insomnia Bird (subtitled, perhaps unnecessarily, “Edmonton poems”) is a city in a book, rich with polyphony, cacophony, intersecting texts, facts, quotes, a bric-a-brac of exhaust and feathers. Full of Marianne Moore-style leapings (if not soundings) in which the information, the research is foregrounded, lying on the surface, detrital, truthful, redolent, Shepherd’s collection of collage poems mashes together the quotidian and demotic with the intellectual and the poetic in a feat the mind squirms essentially to take in. I was drawn into the book most deeply from the anaphoric poem Purple City: AfterImages onwards (“You are regret….and graffiti showing a bird with one word – “Listen” – and/ the sweat of the labourers who build the long ritual River/ Valley Stairs, and the funicular, and the sweat of the believers/ who run them…”) Some of the prior pieces fall into a few distracting cliches such as the “heart of the city” or “thunder of hooves,” trees with fingers and the like but also, I think it took a few poems for my mind to click into the particular cadences of the text, which never rest in the pure lyric or a po-mo disjointedness but aim to blur the boundaries between such generic modes. The descriptor-based poems like Edmonton! Deadmonton! Edmonchuck! Redmonton! (“your mountain ash trees full of red berries/and the watery music of waxwings…Your drifting snow and your Office Tower Tales…and the Wee Book Inn and the Sugarbowl”), Don’t Let MacDonald’s into Heritage Days (“I walked home blinking blood…poplar and chokecherry now meringued with frost”) and the ones about magpies and coyotes in which such insights inhere as “Resentful of our own receding hairlines,/we clearcut the hills,” are the most potent pieces for this reader. But the rest have their place in the symphony of things. Indeed, I want to hear this book performed in all its loco layers, ala Robert Bringhurst or the Four Horsemen. It might be, at times, too much textuality for the eye to want take in (especially in combination with all the end notes and epigraphs and blurbs – though I DID appreciate how many women eco-poets are quoted!) but the ear aches to hear the blatting crash of bird and truck, of hammer and train, the poetry cracking through the surfaces more clearly in this fashion, like a yapping dandelion through scrawled-all-over cement. A transplanted BC-er to L’Edmonton myself, I thoroughly relished this raucous homage/lament to a city buzzy with contradictions and yet still humming with beauty.