Race to Finish
Millenium Marketing / 25 March 2022

Race to Finishby Marion MutalaPublished by Millennium MarketingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781777-371319 Marion Mutala is a literary machine, with sixteen published books and more on the way. I’ve previously reviewed two of her children’s books—Grateful and the 175-page, multi-story achievement, Baba’s Babushka. The Saskatchewan writer’s latest title, Race to Finish, is a poetry collection, dedicated to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG); the First Nations children buried in unmarked, residential school graves across Canada; and the Black Lives Matter movement. It begins with a foreword by artist Kevin L. Peeace, who relays the experience of presenting in an elementary school and being asked by a young student: “What was it like being at the residential school?” Peeace also provided the compelling black and white cover drawing of a bisected face: one half representing the bricks and tears of the residential school experience, the other representative of his peoples’ connection to the land and familial love—at least that’s my interpretation. Mutala’s poems champion racial equality, gratitude, positivity, and God, as well as personal experience, ie: “the old wooden cookstove on the/farm when I was a child” (from “Reminds Me”). Not every poem is rosy, however. In…

Blue Moon, Red Herring
JackPine Press / 25 March 2022

Blue Moon, Red Herringby Angeline SchellenbergPublished by JackPine PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$30.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-39-9 Clever, layered, original, fun. These words leap to mind after reading Winnipeg poet Angeline Schellenberg’s colourful limited-edition chapbook—bound to resemble a paint swatch—Blue Moon, Red Herring. Each of the twenty-five prose poems in this 2019 collection were inspired by a colour, and the colours themselves appear where a Contents page normally would. No need for titles when the paint-chip colours do the work, and each poem’s colour-matched with its sample. What results is candy—for the eye and the mind. Schellenberg employs a kind of controlled stream-of-consciousness in these delightful and deceptively simple poems, but don’t be fooled: much research went into this. My best analogy: microwaved popcorn. The poet’s hue-inspired thoughts seem to pop around, but they stay “in the bag” of her theme, and each poem’s written in a single controlled paragraph. Colours aside, Schellenberg’s myriad references are gleaned from art, literature, science, nature, religion, history, philosophy, pop culture, advertising slogans, cliché’s and personal experience, and this rich gallery of inspirations makes for genius mélanges. In “Magenta” she writes: “like soul mates and democracy, magenta exists only in your mind”. We also get a…

Poetry and Lyrics of Jay Semko, The
Wood Dragon Books / 25 March 2022

The Poetry & Lyrics of Jay Semkoby Jay SemkoPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078631 “She ain’t pretty she just looks that way.” If you’re a Canadian of a certain age, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize that lyric from the song “She Ain’t Pretty” by The Northern Pikes, a Saskatchewan-based band that rose to popularity in the 1980s and still records. The Pikes’ bassist and a vocalist, Jay Semko, also penned many of the band’s songs, and now he’s released a book that’s “a mixture of song lyrics and ‘stand alone’ poems written over a 25-year period”. The Poetry & Lyrics of Jay Semko begins with the artist’s abbreviated autobiography. Jay Semko was bullied as a grade-accelerated child in rural Saskatchewan; became passionate about learning guitar and writing songs in his teens; and enjoyed career success both with The Northern Pikes and as a solo artist (ten albums plus music composition for film and television). We also meet the Jay Semko who is “a recovering addict … living with Bipolar Disorder”. Sharing his experience “helps [him] immensely, and is crucial to [his] own personal recovery”. “Write what you know” is a common literary adage and…

coda: fluttertongue book 7
JackPine Press / 2 March 2022

coda: fluttertongue book 7by Steven Ross SmithPublished by JackPine PressReview by Elena Bentley$20.00 ISBN 9781927035467 When I think of poetry, I don’t immediately think of fun and games. But coda: fluttertongue 7 is just that—it’s fun! It’s a playful, tactile, tangible poetry experience. Steven Ross Smith brings to a close his decades-long “exploration of methods of poetic composition” with this highly innovative final installment of fluttertongue. Made in collaboration with artist, illustrator, and graphic designer Brian Kachur, this handmade chapbook is not your usual book design. The pages (die cut in the shape of a Roman numeral seven) are held together in the top left corner by a metal pin. This means you have full range of motion to turn and swivel the pages. And trust me, you’ll need to! Because while Smith composed the poem, Kachur organized the lines to flow and move around the holes in the die cuts. At times the lines read left to right, then swing downward, and at other times, the lines head upward, then curve back right to left again. Spoiler alert! Sevens appear everywhere: seven sections, seven pages per section, and seven splotches on the edge of the page that flutter when…