The Rusty Toque is pleased to cross-post selections from the All Lit Up blog's Poetry Month series Poetry Primer in which poets from across the country select their favourite up-and-coming poets.
Visit the All Lit Up blog for this and other Poetry Month treats!
Established poet and women's activist Sonja Greckol highlights the corporeality of Kate Hargreaves' debut poetry collection, Leak, as her poetry primer pick. Greckol's work is inspired by activism: she began writing upon the re-election of Ontario Premier Mike Harris. She's coordinated poetry for Women and Environments International Magazine and has served as the Associate Rep representative on the National Council of the League of Canadian Poets, and currently works with the Toronto Women's City Alliance. Her poem "Emilie explains Newton to Voltaire" was nominated for the 2008 CBC Poetry Prize. Her most recent collection, 2014's Skein of Days (Pedlar Press), streams together newspaper headlines, excerpts of Governor General Award-winning poetry collections, and song titles (among other elements) to create an experience that is "cacophonous, soothing, disturbing, comic, comforting, melodic" (The Rusty Toque).
Greckol's pick, Kate Hargreaves, chooses source material in Leak that is a little closer to home: the poet's own body is juxtaposed against her language. The multi-talented Hargreaves has previously published Talking Derby: Stories from a Life on Eight Wheels (Black Moss, 2012), appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, and serves as a publishing assistant and book designer in Windsor, Ontario. Leak has been called an "exciting poetic debut" by Susan Holbrook – see why for yourself with "Stems", below.
Sonja Greckol on why she chose Kate Hargreaves:
Kate Hargreaves -- LEAK ...and she piles, plies, pulls, pliés and pleas...and she's off and playing and turning ..
The humanoid tangloid on the cover of Kate Hargreaves's first poetry collection, Leak, alerted me to the intricacies of a body, lush and darkly striated and entangled in growth. Then the surge of verbs: heap, chew, skim, pore, chip, peel open into a body, always into a body that struggles with itself. I am primed with my own surfeit of breaks, sprains and scars — those storied bumps, falls, incisions, anxieties, fears and joys — that etch each daily life. Hargreaves is playing for keeps here, nothing is frivolous on the inside like nothing is frivolous on the cover; everything appears fantastic, it is all precisely ordered and disordered and present.
Each opening riff, musically both casual and precise, lifts and spins me along these verbs that nail quotidian self-care or immolation: She heaps her plate with Brussels sprouts. She chews more than she can bite off. She picks a scab and tucks it into her purse. She pores over her blackheads in the bathroom mirror.. She chips her tooth on a stale raisin. She peels away the skin on the side of her thumb. Little word puffs to my eye enervate and illuminate a complex embodiment and I am chasing, heelweighted while Hargreaves lifts and spins and undulates:ties her laces, scrapes her shins, composts in her bed, rubs cream onto purple knees shaving around stubble swell.
It's Hargreaves handling of the stuffness of that daily life in a body, in a house, in a city, on roller skates that is arresting. Each poem opens out into complex word play, riven through with paratactic shifts that accumulate a factenergy that threatens to but never comes apart. I am amused and challenged by the bones of her poems, while I rush headlong in awe of her corporeality and my own. There are no abstractions, no summations to be found in Leak, just delight in the skill and disquiet at the quiet end: my body of work | pressing warm sheets into your hands.
Kate Hargreaves on why she writes poetry, and who her influences are:
I hated poetry until I was 18 or 19. I had loved reading my entire life, but somehow hadn't encountered any poetry that excited me; I went into my undergrad in English and creative writing with the firm belief that poetry was a bunch of abstract, pretentious nonsense and that I would stick to short fiction and never, ever write a poem. Cue some wonderful professors, namely Susan Holbrook and Nicole Markotic, who heaped upon their classes visceral, surprising, playful, energetic poetry from people like Sina Queyras, Fred Wah, Jenny Sampirisi, Nikki Reimer, and Haryette Mullen, who really showed me how vibrant and tangible the form could be. I found out that poetry was a space where I could play with language and question its cliches and idioms without falling into abstraction, and that my favourite poems were the ones that made me feel like they had me by the guts. Those were the poems I wanted to write. Seven years later, I'm absorbed by the play and possibility in poetry, and I don't think I've ever finished writing a short story.
Follow along with our Poetry Primer series all April long or get the full collection of featured poetry plus a poem from each of our established poets in our new chapbook, ibid. Get a free ebook copy if you buy a collection of poetry from All Lit Up during National Poetry Month.
In her second collection, innovative Canadian poet Sonja Ruth Greckol set herself the task of reconstructing “the time of her life,” 1945 until the turn of the century. Rather than untangle formative issues for us, Skein offers the tangle itself: a diary of entries compiled and composed around Greckol’s February birth date as published in print media, popular songs and poems excerpted from the Governor General’s Poetry Award collections as well as witty prose poems, some incorporating symbols and blanks as well as catch phrases and illustrations.
Found poems consisting of garbled headlines introduce the reader to the vocabulary that typified the era. Occasionally I felt as though I were there absorbing the news as though skimming a journal over a train passenger’s shoulder or half-listening to the radio. An amazing range of issues is considered: the new feminism, guns & butter, mining, farming, first nations peoples, the Cold War, poverty, as well as lives of ordinary Canadians.
Highlights are the lyric poems that book-end the volume and appear intermittently throughout. The initial untitled poem introduces us to Greckol’s view of what constitutes history and the “intricate textual rhythms” of her language:
The hidden, the obscure fall
In Coda: More Things Thing Up, (a terrific title) Greckol pulls the skein tight: the times are varied, chaotic; she (and we) house it all, and struggle:
Change accumulates time, weaves rhyme geographic
Headlines and subheads appropriated, often reconstructed into dense, highly active lines plus brief personal narratives tie the collection together. These collage-like word-flows—cacophonous, soothing, disturbing, comic, comforting, melodic—replicate the era’s ambient sounds:
From this unique, well-researched volume, two lines I’ll never forget: “You’re always running into people’s unconscious,” says Marilyn Monroe in July 1961 and the beautiful mysterious line from 1947, A bomb snow made ladies out of trees…
You can read an excerpt for Skein of Days in Issue 6 of The Rusty Toque
Lee Gould's poems, essays, and reviews appear in: Blithe Spirit, Bridges, Magma, Quarterly West, The Berkshire Review, Salmagundi, Gay and Lesbian Review, Chronogram, Women and Environments, Passager and other journals; in anthologies “Burning Bright,” “Still Against War,” “A Slant of Light: Women Writers of the Hudson Valley.” Her chapbook “Weeds” appeared in 2010.
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Dr. Aaron Schneider completed a PhD. in Canadian Literature at Western University where he currently teaches courses in public speaking, political rhetoric and Canadian Literature. He is excited about bringing together his interests in World and Canadian Literature. He is the co-founder and co-editor of The Rusty Toque and Western's online student journal Occasus.