The enticing title of Marie Elyse St. George’s latest book says it all. Delve into this tickle trunk of poems, stories (both fictions and truths), drawings, paintings, and cartoons, plus a tribute to now long-passed writer Anne Szumigalski, and you’ll indeed find something darkly delicious to make you smile, laugh, and think.
Saskatoon’s St. George has earned an esteemed reputation as both a visual artist and a writer, and a career highlight’s been her 1995 poetry and art collaboration (with close friend Szumigalski) Voice, which resulted in both an exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery and a book which garnered the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1995. She’s also collaborated with poet Patrick Lane, provided art for the covers of numerous literary journals and books, and published an award-winning memoir.
While reading An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments, I procured an image of a young girl skipping through a field of wildflowers, plucking blossoms here and there for an atypical bouquet. This image was no doubt hastened by the book’s cover image–a photo of the author as a girl beneath what I’m guessing’s a rose arbour–and by the tantalizing whimsy of both the artwork (ie: the full-colour “Origin of Angels”) and the clever humour in the text.
To read St. George is to leap into worlds that include opinionated silver fox stoles who malign the fact that “Times have changed,” and art openings and fashion are not what they once were: “The pretty young ladies in the formal gowns you so admire are art students wearing ’40s and ’50s clothes as a comment on continuing sexism.” In the story “Who Was That Masked Dog?” a precocious child converses with a guard dog who speaks in the “hearty, courteous manner of Teddy Roosevelt,” and in “Feeding Amelia” we learn that a talking shark has eaten Amelia Earhart: “I absorbed her spirit and courage, but I must say, her leather coat and boots were quite indigestible”.
In her poetry, as well, St. George gifts inanimate objects with life. Words themselves can be “rude they elbow their way/in front of the correct ones and make you look a fool” or they can “spread their shimmering skirts/fold their hands and smile fondly”. In her poem “Some Secondhand Clothes” we read that the subjects in the title “resent being bundled from their cozy closets”.
I particularly enjoyed hilarious “Hazel,” in the opening story, who endures her husband’s loathsome wilderness expeditions and has learned a plethora of strange skills, including “how to use wild herbs to season a ragout of grasshoppers”.
The fleeting nature of inspiration, a stillborn fraternal twin, soldiers, the challenges associated with aging, and the influence of animals-from mice to grey foxes to “elephants listening to lies they tell themselves”-are all subjects that walk through the wildflower fields with that imaginative little girl, who grew to be a talented writer and artist. This entertaining “amalgam of fantasy and reality” is well worth the read.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM