Shiner by Eva H.D. [Mansfield Press, 2016]

Due to a much more severely constrained schedule for the imminent future, I will be writing Marrow Reviews as “blurbs & irks” rather than, as I would prefer, lengthier, more complexly argued essay-style pieces. But on the premise that some intelligent reaction to Canadian poetry books is better than none, here goes.

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[bit of a gushy blurb] One is first struck by her unique name, then by these poems, that full-force their way into the reader’s mind with lyrical lengths that rarely sacrifice rhythm for narrative and where a sense of place is never hokey but rather grounded in culturally adept perspectives. But what really strikes is the risk. And it’s less content I consider when aching for leaps off poetic precipices and more sound collisions (“chloro-full pulse riling to the thunk/of truant basketballs”), teeterings on the line between necessary awkward and inessential incorrect (“as if panhandling for extinct species/would ever buy us enough/more time”) and lungings into abject insult (“eat a bag of dick fricaseee”) And titles, from the award-winning, “38 Michigans” to “Liar, Apricot, Partly, Apricot” that tweak the possible in terms of both grammar and imagery.

[a few wee irks] At times the poems grow so casually reportage-mode they lose their aural tension. Say in the poem, “17” which ends, “we swayed awhile and ran away. It was difficult not/to laugh. We felt the earth as it slipped away beneath us.” And a piece such as “Grace Street Jesus lost his arm again” deserves more absurdist un-reelings than its somewhat redundant 5 lines. H.D. is most potent when she lets things sprawl out in eloquent metaphor for a time.

[back to gushy blurb] With the intelligent spunk of a Karen Solie (yet more deeply-dunked with feeling) fused with Steve Noyes-style lingual dexterities, H.D. writes about the sharp borders of love, endless road trips, skewy histories. And amid the more ragged pieces, she tosses in quirky sonnets like “Flat on its Back and Copper” and the sestina “Hoax.” Peaches, Toronto, snow, glowings, death and Greece lace this loop-de-loop collection of a verse world unique to this truly new set of Can lit voicings. (& omigod, these lines: “Dead people are so set in their ways…They just lie there, like fucking off is an Olympic sport.”) Yar!!!




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