man from elsewhere

11 September 2014

man from elsewhere
by Lorna Crozier
Published by JackPine Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$30.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-09-2

Swift Current-born Lorna Crozier is one of the brightest lights in Canadian poetry. If you read poetry-and no, it is definitely not a genre to be afraid of-you’ll know that her name is a household word among poetry readers. She’s published numerous critically-acclaimed books, has won the Governor General’s Award for poetry, presents internationally, and is one of Canada’s most read and appreciated poets.

It’s difficult to know for certain why some poets succeed and others burn quietly or flash out immediately. Certainly for “staying power” one must possess talent and its sisters: originality, skilled craftsmanship, and intelligence. One must have interesting things to say, and express these things in masterful and memorable ways. It also helps to be entertaining. Crozier possesses all of these attributes. She’s made her readers laugh and cry, and one might argue she’s even shocked us over the years.

Why then, would a big name poet publish a hand-bound, limited edition chapbook with Saskatchewan publisher JackPine Press? Perhaps because some work, like the fervent love poems found in man from elsewhere (co-created with Saskatonians Lisa Johnson and Stephen Rutherford), require a more personal and beautiful format than one normally finds in trade publishing. Maybe the chapbook is also an homage to Crozier’s birth-province. It could be that she recognizes and celebrates that JackPine Press is publishing not just poetry, but also physical works of art (one of the collective’s titles was printed on tear-out drink coasters, another was packaged in a powder-puff box).

The eleven thematic poems in man from elsewhere are printed on lightly-patterned paper (Japanese Kozo and textured Strathmore), and there are only 75 copies of the saddle-stitched text in existence. Each poem is dedicated to a “man” from a different place, ie” “Man From Hades,” “Man From the Rainforest,” and “Main From Eden.” A consummate poet, Crozier knows how to work line-breaks to create layers, as we see in these lines about “three hounds the colour of snow” from her poem “Man From Hades 2”:

Their noses led them through the dark
And I didn’t allow myself to wonder
What they fed on.

Crozier demonstrates an affinity for including animals in her work. Here examples include “the throat of a bird,” “the secrets of the hare, the spider’s rasp,” “hawk on the updraft,” and a “spider spinning\Her hunger across my belly”. In “Man From The Cariboo,” the narrator professes “I wanted\A horse more than a man”.

My favourite in this lovely collection is “Man From Nunavut,” which brilliantly begins: “He came out of the snow,\Bones over his eyes\So he wouldn’t go blind.” The poet juxtaposes the frozen landscape against “flames\From the frozen fire.”

The reasons why Crozier and JackPine Press have collaborated really don’t matter. What does matter is that they have, and we should rejoice and be glad in it.


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