Bibiana Tomasic’s slender and focused Revolutions per Minute is an 8 poem chapbook from David Zieroth’s classic The Alfred Gustav Press. Each stapled book has a minimalist design on the cover and the poems are followed by a brief Afterword describing the poetic origins of the text. In Tomasic’s case, these pieces are rendered poignant by her husband (and co-rider’s) sudden death in the same year (2017). Having been reading motorcyle memoirs for some months, and especially having been moved by Neil Peart’s account in Ghost Rider of his extensive bike sojourn in the wake of extreme grief, I was interested in these pieces, all narratives of motion, steeped in geography, quantum physics, the connection to the beloved’s body. My three favorite lyrics were “Two Wheel Tapestry” with its skinny, jagged text that ends “I am changed/by each blade/every strain,” the speed seductions of “Motorcycle Myth” and the erotic physiology of “Wind Woman” who aligns “crest of ilium/with the patella” as “Near Hope she smells/the drops of Isolillock Peak/a katabatic wind.” The ache to palliate missing is palpable in the poet’s hunger for a diction to also give her incessant movements towards, and away.
Frequent, small loads of laundry by Rhonda Ganz (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2017) is a debut collection of surrealesque domesticities grounded in imagined or mythic narratives of often absurd proportions. I loved the cover design with its shiny white stock littered with sketches of clothing and, in the centre, a bird, its breast the same hue as the title script. I enjoyed the poems that held an expansive and quirky lens to the everyday. “In the backcountry, risk of avalanche remains high”, for instance, with its vision of a singular woman exfoliating away the old year, the new one promising “unblemished” days, shortbread awaiting her consumption and, then the weird twist, “the cat’s in the corner,/taking wagers.” Ganz particularly shines when she ramps up her rhythmic intensities with anaphora, as in “The psychopath regurgitates Lao Tzu” (If you have no shame, you can sleep in any bed/If you have no plan, do what comes next) or in “This point of roughness” where she repeats “Solstice” in an invocation and series of requests that turn into a dark spell worthy of Wuthering Heights with the “bosky lover” at the window and the speaker murmuring “Let him in. O let him in.” When Ganz is attentive to form, the poems also elevate beyond their mere content. “Some Days I Regret” leaps from boats to gout to planes to Portuguese and then concludes with “Monster Christ”, the piece tightening through its lunges by the use of internal resonances and a triplet structure.
The book is divided into seven days of the week, each preceded by a quote from a popular song, beginning with Jane Siberry and concluding with Hawksley Workman. With echoes of Stuart Ross, Mary Ruefle, and Karen Solie, Ganz often iterates in unyielding tones, sharply delineating a situation, leaving little room for feeling, before moving on. Her poem about poets keeping score regarding the symbologies in their “dead mother” poems underscores the harsh ridiculousness of the literary scene, while a piece such as “Why I don’t have children” combos epidemics with such superficial (or are they?) reasons like “I have spent the last hour searching for my keys,” both types of pieces proferring a scathing detachment in tone and intent. There aren’t a wealth of lines that stand out, aurally speaking, in this book (one that jumped towards me was “under the cedar shingles/ice crystals grew, tiny as amoeba, insidious/as a crowbar”); the strength is in the imaginings, little bitter, delicious stories of the everyday impossible, wet loads of strange garments we cannot help but cloathe ourselves in.