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.