Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ross Leckie’s Best Poetry Books

I decided to take books off my shelf in a bit of an arbitrary fashion, focusing on first books or books that didn’t receive enough attention, in my view.  On another day it would be a different set of books.


Eric MillerIn the Scaffolding.  2005

Miller is one of our very best poets.  This book shows him at the height of his powers.  He uses long sentences that are structured to deliver rhapsodic and complex rhythms.  His metaphors are lush and expressive.  The ideas of his poems move across an impressive range.  In 2007 he returned with The Day in Moss.

Elise Partridge.  Fielder’s Choice.  2002

Few poets mix wit with pain with such subtlety.  There is a remarkable control of rhythm and rhyme in this work.  There have been many dark poems written about death.  “Ways of Going” is clever, fanciful, and almost fun.  Her 2009 book Chameleon Hours is also very fine.

Jeffery DonaldsonGuesswork.  2011

In 1999 Donaldson gave us Waterglass, one of the finest books of formal poetry ever written.  He travels through numerous forms and measures, including syllabics, with such ease that you can miss the formal and rhythmical structures altogether.  In Guesswork, as you might expect from such a title, surprise in tone, mood, idea, rhythm, and form is always around the corner.  The sequence “Torso: Variations on a Theme by Rilke” is astonishing.

Katia GrubisicWhat if red ran out.  2008
This book has the crazy edge of a runaway rototiller.  It makes challenging leaps from image to metaphor and explodes with verbal play.  This book is full-out roller coaster fun . . . except that it can catch you short in poignancy, in sudden slowing meditations on what hurts us most.


I could have listed any of my one hundred favorite American poets, but I wanted to go off the beaten track a little bit, with poets not well known in Canada.

Cynthia HogueOr Consequence.  2010
Hogue’s poems are quiet and suggestive, and they kind of sneak up on you.  You think you’ve discovered the simplicity of them; you think they might be simple, but complex variations of idea can step around behind you and tap you on the shoulder.  “Midnight Sun” is such a poem.  Or Consequence follows her very fine book, The Incognito Body, of 2006.

Tony Hoagland.  Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty.  2010
Hoagland is very well known in the States, but I don’t find many people reading him here, though it was Sue Sinclair who put him on to me in the Nineties with his book Donkey Gospel.  No one explores the confusion of identity and all of its self-deluding dark corners like Hoagland.  No one has such a trenchant view of middle-class life.

Natasha TretheweyNative Guard.  2006
This book won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, so it is very well known in the US.  Trethewey is the daughter of the white Nova Scotian poet Eric Trethewey, who has lived in the US for a good portion of his adult life, and a black woman from the south, Gwendolyn Grimmette.  This book explores all of the awkwardness of race, both the ways in which it is fixed and hammered home, and the ways in which categories of race are fluid and uncertain.  See the poem “Blond.”

Connie VoisineRare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream.  2008
I first heard of Voisine only this winter when hearing her read in Arizona, and I fell in love with her work.  She is originally from northern Maine, that part that is further north than Montreal or Fredericton, and this world was much in the forefront of her 2001 book, Cathedral of the North.  I can’t quite put my finger on what I like so much about High Meadow.  It’s quiet, but it has many sharp corners in the road, many surprising turns of irony.

UK and Ireland

I’m already in trouble for putting the two countries together.  Oh well.

Vona GroarkeJuniper Street.  2006
I really like the way this book combines the bang and clatter of everyday life with moody and redolent metaphors.  There is nothing showy in the book, but neither is it quiet and unassuming.  It is one of those books in which the craft is seamless.

John BurnsideSelected Poems.  2006
One wonderful way to encounter a poet is to read across his career in an exquisite selection.  The Selected ranges across eight books from 1991 to 2005’s The Good Neighbour.  The inside flap describes the book as “a poetry of luminous, limpid grace” with “the charmed half-light of the liminal.”  I’m hooked.  Ok, so this is over-the-top rhetoric.  I know what it’s getting at.  Burnside can be plainspoken to the point of flatness, and then suddenly reveal complex emotions he was palming all along.

Tiffany AtkinsonKink and Particle.  2006
This book is the weird combination of a really smart wide-eyed kid astonished with everything she sees and a street-kid who carries a razor-blade shiv.  The tension in the language keeps the poems tumbling over themselves in chaotic but controlled jerks of rhythm.  Reading them is kind of like watching Chevy Chase fall down stairs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Radio Fiddlehead: Best Poetry Books of the Previous Decade

Welcome to our Radio Fiddlehead podcasts, now available on our blog. Our most recent is a round table on the best poetry books of the 2000’s featuring James Langer, Sharon McCartney, and Anita Lahey.

In the comments please enter your own lists!  Say why you like the books you are listing. Over the next two weeks we will post lists from Ross Leckie, Anita Lahey, and James Langer and with a list from Sharon McCartney to come later.

Ross Leckie
Editor, The Fiddlehead

Listen to the interview in your web browser 
(Right Click or Control Click on the above link to download mp3 File)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Editor spotted at Frye Festival

Mark Jarman, The Fiddlehead's Fiction Editor, playing the harmonica at this year's Frye Festival in Moncton.
(Photo credit: Emmanuel Albert)

The 2011 Maritime Writers’ Workshops

Interested in writing? Going to be in Fredericton during the first week of July? Then you might want to consider attending the 2011 Maritime Writers’ Workshops. One of Canada’s oldest and most established events for aspiring writers, the Maritime Writers’ Workshops, is open to all and runs from July 4 – 8 on the campus of the University of New Brunswick. You can sign up for a whole week’s worth of workshops or just sign up for individual day or evening sessions.

Workshops range non-fiction, creative or popular fiction, mystery writing, writing for kids and teens, getting started, nature writing, blogging, e-publishing, memoir writing, and more. The instructors include children’s author ShereeFitch, The Fiddlehead’s own fiction editor Mark Jarman, CBC broadcaster and non-fiction author Bob Mersereau, and librarian and blogger Sue Fisher.

For more information go to the 2011 Maritime Writers' Workshop website.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Congratulations and Exciting News about Fiddlehead Contributors

Congratulations to Alexander MacLeod! 

His collection of short stories, Light Lifting (Biblioasis)won the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award at the Atlantic Book Awards. The story, “Wonder About Parents,” which appeared in The Fiddlehead 245 (Autumn 2010), is from that collection.

  Congratulations to Sheila McClarty! 

Her short fiction collection High Speed Crow (Oberon) won Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book at Manitoba Book Awards. Two stories, “The Government Ditch” and “Stolen,” from that collection appeared in The Fiddlehead in issues no. 242 (Winter 2010) and 246 (Winter 2011).

Holly Luhning, who wrote The Fiddlehead blog posting “Documentary Fiction and The Death of Donna Whalen” recently had her new novel Quiver reviewed on MSNBC Today Books’ website.