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The Porcupine's Quill - February 09, 2007 - 100 Comments

In John Updike's Room

In John Updike’s Room by Christopher Wiseman

Reviewed by Shane Neilson

I must admit to a strange lacunae regarding Christopher Wiseman: I’d never heard of him before this review, which is especially strange considering the blurbs on the back of the book by two non-slouch adjudicators, Carmine Starnino and Don Coles. I was further embarrassed by his bio, which pits him at near the centre of Canadian Literature for decades. (He’s won a number of provincial awards for his poetry, his criticism is celebrated, he was the founding presence behind the University of Calgary Creative Writing program. Well, one can forgive him for that.) Yet, in my defence, he’s never won the big prize – a GG – and so isn’t by default required reading. Furthermore, he is from a different generation than my own. But then so is P.K. Page, still alive, and Shakespeare, who is dead. At any rate, In John Updike’s Room was published by the Porcupine’s Quill, for my money the best press in Canada. I took it on that basis.

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The Porcupine's Quill - September 07, 2006 - 0 Comments

He Claims He Is the Direct Heir

He Claims He Is the Direct Heir by Lazar Sarna

Reviewed by Rob Taylor

Prior to the 2005 publication of He Claims He Is the Direct Heir, Montreal poet Lazar Sarna had not released a collection for twenty-seven years. Not surprisingly, then, the poems in his new collection were written over a significant time span, with journal publication credits for some of the included poems dating back to the mid-nineties. What results from this extended fermentation process is a collection that in many ways resembles an author’s debut book. This is not a comment on Sarna’s craftsmanship, but instead on the variety of styles and forms he adopts throughout the collection. Like many first books, He Claims He Is the Direct Heir does not come across as one unified bloc of poems, but instead as a more scattered collection. This should not be seen entirely as a drawback, as it allows readers to experience the transformations that occurred in Sarna’s writing over the last decade.

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The Porcupine's Quill - May 10, 2006 - 0 Comments

Hot Poppies

Hot Poppies by Leon Rooke

Reviewed by Greg Santos

Leon Rooke is the Governor General’s award winning author of a number of novels and story collections. Hot Poppies is his first book of poetry and it is certainly an intriguing late addition to his repertoire. I should add that I have not had a chance to read much of Rooke’s fiction; therefore, I will be unable to compare this collection to his previous works. However, because they are Rooke’s first published poems, it is important to read them based on their own merits rather than in comparison to his earlier prose.

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The Porcupine's Quill - April 30, 2006 - 0 Comments

Bastardi Puri

Bastardi Puri by Walid Bitar

Reviewed by Evie Christie

In Walid Bitar’s Bastardi Puri nothing is what it seems. That is to say, these poems are unique, each poem speakinginwardly and outwardly at once. Bitar makes language malleable, offsets tradition and form with a clear urbane voice, and generates a true relationship with his reader. There are post-modern elements found throughout the collection in the often self-reflexive dialogue: the speaker acknowledges the poem, the reader, and him/herself. Bitar pulls off this dialogue well, forming a genuinely intriguing relationship with the reader, as his lines tease, pun, insult, trick, and dizzy us with wordplay.

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The Porcupine's Quill - April 26, 2006 - 20 Comments

Always Now: The Collected Poems (Vol. 3)

Always Now: The Collected Poems (Vol. 3) by Margaret Avison

Reviewed by Anne Burke

Margaret Avison has outlasted many of her contemporaries and she is deserving of rediscovery.  The reappraisal of the Canadian modernist movement gives Avison a foothold on The Re-Making of Modern Poetry in Canada. Indeed, for some revisionists, she was a “major” figure.  Avison’s poems are an antidote to the notion that an aesthetic of hard, abstract, learned verse was an implicitly masculinist-modernist contribution.  She wrote none of the soft, effusive, personal verse, supposedly written by women and Romantics.[1] While Avison was born in 1918, the appeal of her poetry is clear, from her beginnings with John Sutherland’s First Statement Press, in 1947, to virtual canonization in the Oxford anthologies, to Cid Corman’s The Gist of Origin, in 1975, and remarkable staying power, in Writing the Terrain, edited by Robert Stamp in 2004.

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