December 3, 2021
  • December 3, 2021

StarPhoenix Book Reviews: Remlinger, Hendrickson, Donlan

By on June 29, 2019 0

StarPhoenix reviewer Bill Robertson reviews three new books of poetry – Paula Jane Remlinger, Raye Hendrickson, and John Donlan.

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This hole called January by Paula Jane Remlinger
This hole called January by Paula Jane Remlinger Photo provided

I don’t know Paula Jane Remlinger, a poet from Beaver Creek just south of Saskatoon, so I wasn’t called to help her with the title of her first book of poems, This Hole Called January (Thistledown, 12, $ 95). This hole-in-the-hole company, paired with the dark cover image of a engorged winter day, wants to label this book winter, perhaps along the lines of Patrick Lane’s Winter.

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Yes, there are a few winter poems, starting with the track selection lamenting the grip of the season, as well as the obviously titled Winter Still, the beautiful oranges – “I ate so much that I’m getting shiny. like Jupiter ”- and the nicely packaged Old Man Winter 1 (there aren’t two, at least not here).

But this relatively short collection – which is part of Thistledown’s New Leaf series – is much more varied in its tastes and subjects than this somewhat restrictive title would imply. Gardening for fun and relaxation would be the title of a good collection, especially since this poem begins with the provocative phrase “You keep a tidy prison”. Then there’s A Crueller Trap, which is about waging a war against mice but being disturbed to find them dead in old bottles of wine.

Remlinger includes here poems about wild cocktails – the howling salty dog ​​- the pathetic difference between an online dating photo and the real thing – the glossy Lavalife tongue – and the result of a report that Crayola was considering removing the one of its colors – the charming Burnt Siena. A few really strong pieces are what to expect when you don’t expect them, a compilation of all those brash and invasive assumptions made by active breeders, and the Multi-Part Artifice, an Atwood-style feminist tale of a cosmetics catalog. .

While sometimes the poems get a bit pedantic – Superman’s poems, in every story there is a wolf – there is so much more to this collection than being stuck in a hole with winter. Remlinger’s poems, as three titles say, have many origins, many phases, many dawns.

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Five Red Sentries by Raye Hendrickson
Five Red Sentries by Raye Hendrickson Photo provided

Regina poet Raye Hendrickson is also a massage therapist, and I can easily imagine her shaping the poems of Five Red Sentries (Thistledown, $ 12.95) with a vigor often revealed by the intense reach of her verbs and adjectives. While “the sand beats the water”, she “struggles with (her) hood”, “sand skins (her) body” and “the wind” is “a roaring avalanche, a thunder of waterfall” . So goes Birds Blown Sideways, Qu’Appelle Valley.

In Hubble’s Fragments, ReVision, The Curiosity of Water and When It All Began, her lively language makes its way to delighted eroticism, while in To the Dunes, sweaty to the end, she asks: “How joy can it be worn otherwise? “and throws off his clothes,” Nothing / between me and the earth. “And here’s a fun bite:” Linen cracks his jaw and smacks his lips as he stalks / grasshoppers pluck his legs. “

Hendrickson’s poems vary in size and form, some small like Flax and the very good and terribly familiar Home for Thanksgiving, others like Lament, almost a page and calm, exuding its elegiac content. Sadly, she can’t resist the urge to re-narrate Lament’s loss in What Is Left, weakening the power of the former. Markers, like What Is Left, allow themselves too much sentimentality. She knows how to say it with power and precision, like in winter, but we all need room to mourn in so many ways.

Five Red Sentries, like many of a first collection, tries everything at once to see what works. A few don’t, but many do.

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All day by John Donlan
All day by John Donlan Photo provided

Finally, from John Donlan, comes his sixth collection, Out All Day (Ronsdale Press, $ 15.95). Donlan, who divides his time between Vancouver and South Frontenac, Ont., Was formerly writer in residence at the Saskatoon Public Library and includes here, among the poems on the various geographic regions of Canada, a section on the Plains. Yes, the Shield, the Cordillera and other parts of the country can be found in this collection, but what we really have here is a series of beautiful meditations on life, love and loss.

Donlan understands what the ancient Greeks knew when they imagined their exquisite gods and goddesses. These magnificent and fickle immortals looked at humans and understood that their beauty lay in the way the sadness of mortality tinted everything they did and felt. Out All Day is calm as you think of everything from seeds to moles, to frogs, to pond levels, to the death of dear friends and to the heart of the poet, all set to music.

It’s good that Donlan has been a writer in residence here and elsewhere because his artistry is exquisite, most of the poems being organized in stanzas of three and four lines, sometimes rhymed, in which the poet lets his counter overflow the end of the line – carefully, consciously – all so that he can put together an extended metaphor that smacks of surprise and wonder.

The opening poem South Frontenac, about his summer home, brings together sex-fueled teens roaring on the freeway, the accidental death of an ecosystem, and birds eating insects on the grill of a wrecked truck. The sad and inevitable cycle of life is all here, in four stanzas, along with this ancient Greek hybris. Do we learn from our mistakes? Usually no. In Lotus, he berates himself, “This is how far I am from enlightenment and perfect peace. “

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There are too many good examples here to cite, but suffice it to say that Donlan tries to balance the beauty of life with the grief of his loss, both in the local sense of a dear friend or in the sense general of certain parts of the environment. He speaks directly to grief and grief (“Grief and I have been avoiding each other / each other lately”), says in Poundmaker that it is “Making peace / with the sorrow that tears me apart But reverts to “Yet like a world”, as he does in Earthquake.

Is life all good? No. Or bad? Not yet. “You live in us like a pain,” he said to Grackle, but “we know sorry is based on love.” This line comes from a charming sestina. There are a few more here, and they’re adorable too.

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