Exile on a Grid Road
Thistledown Press / 3 November 2015

Exile on a Grid Road by Shelley Banks Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $12.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-057-3 Robins, grackles, gulls, airport snow geese, a Great Horned Owl, iconic chick-a-dees that eat peanuts from the palm of a hand, pigeons, Ruby-throated hummingbirds in bougainvillea. Birds flutter in and out of Exile on a Grid Road by longtime Regina writer and photographer Shelley Banks. In her inaugural poetry collection, the multi-genre scribe demonstrates that she’s also paid attention to dogs and cats, insects, rain, the myriad plants (“natives and exotics”) that grow alongside gravel roads, and, of course, to the human heart. Why is this all important? Because life whizzes by, and most of us don’t take the time to stop and consider how a grasshopper resembles a twig on a patio gate, or how-on a grave or anywhere else in a certain season-“lumps of clay jut\through the snow”. This is the very stuff of life; it counterbalances the tedium of work-a-day lives, the horrors of cancer and chemotherapy, the shadows that deaths leave behind. It’s good and necessary to celebrate what goes on beneath the glossy surface of life, and that’s what poets like Banks do so well….

Looking for Aiktow
Joan Soggie / 3 November 2015

Looking for Aiktow: Stories Behind the History of the Elbow of the South Saskatchewan River by Joan Soggie Published by Joan Soggie Review by Keith Foster $20.00 ISBN 978-1-890692-26-1 Aiktow was a notoriously dangerous place. In 1866 a clash between Cree and Blackfoot warriors left hundreds dead, their bleached bones littering a valley. Joan Soggie describes this battle and her search for the site in Looking for Aiktow: Stories Behind the History of the Elbow of the South Saskatchewan River. Aiktow, Cree for elbow, referred to an abrupt bend or elbow in the South Saskatchewan River, located near the current village of Elbow, SK. Both Cree and early explorers avoided camping in this area where the river turned; to do so was an open invitation for the Blackfoot to attack. According to Soggie, “Cree became the official language of the fur trade” on the prairies. For a while the Cree profited by their relationship with the Hudson’s Bay Company, supplying traders with tonnes of fresh meat and pemmican “But those golden days were as elusive and short-lived as the mirages that haunt distant prairie horizons,” Soggie says. She maintains a sympathetic view of Aboriginals, devoting a chapter to Cree Chief…

Watermarks
Wild Sage Press / 3 November 2015

Watermarks by Laura Burkhart Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Eric Greenway $15.00 ISBN 9780988122932 Watermarks, Laura Burkhart’s second book of poetry, will make you laugh. You can hear the poet’s glee in many of these poems-and you wonder how she maintains such fine control of language while giving herself over to all-out play. The levity begins with the first poem, “Advice from Noah’s Wife”, who can “hardly breathe halfway through, let alone tell Noah he should have hired a female ark-tech who knows the ins-and-outs of cleaning.” It’s fitting that a poet who achieves a high level of playfulness with language should include a poem about strategically placing the word “Envy” on a (somewhat altered) Scrabble board, then topping that move with an even better score-“well let’s just say/your fellow players will turn/a not-unpleasant shade of green/when you also use all seven/letters for the 50-point bonus.” In “Writing the Old Frogs Home” the amphibious narrator admits that “Maybe this frog/hospital doesn’t even exist/outside our own lily-/livered minds. Maybe this/is really a frog-leg emporium/and that’s why there are so many/wheel chairs down by the pond.” And, from the same poem, have you heard the one about Mr. Weber, the…