JackPine Press / 16 June 2016

Connectomics Written by Alison Calder Published by Jackpine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $30 ISBN 978-1-927035-21-4 Into the laboratory we go: the fourteen poems in established writer and Winnipeger Alison Calder’s Connectomics are like little scientific explosions of light: things you didn’t know you’d want to know but are glad you know now. In her words, “The idea is\to render the brain\transparent enough to read through.” That’s heady stuff, but Calder takes this concept and renders it into thought-provoking poems that show she’s a master of metaphor, and prove that her literary experiments work. The brain as poetic fodder makes good sense. It’s complex, essential. Nerve central. And Calder, who teaches Canadian literature and creative writing at the University of Manitoba, explores it from interesting angles. In “Clarity2” she imagines the mind of a mouse that’s had firefly genes spliced into for Alzheimer’s research. “Inside his skull\the past incinerates” she writes, “fragments\of a film that’s not replayed.” On the page opposite this short poem there’s a white image (on black) of a brain: it looks like a medical image and it resembles art. The subject of the next poem, “C Elegans3,” is “a small, soil-dwelling nematode.” (The accompanying drawing…

JackPine Press / 21 August 2015

Conditional Written by Andrew McEwan Published by Jackpine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $15.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-17-7 Vancouverite Andrew McEwan’s Conditional, a saddle-stitched chapbook, contains two alternately playful and serious poems, or meditations. The first, “Spreading Sheets,” takes inspiration from a quote about stratus clouds, derived from an 1803 text called Essay on the Modification of Clouds (by Luke Howard). In the resulting text-which alternatingly appears on symbolically transparent vellum pages in a free verse style and on gray cotton pages in prose poem blocks-the poet asks “what is this fog?” Fog, here, is up for interpretation. The author alludes to Vancouver’s “visibility issues,” and hovering mainland\mists,” to condensation from the bathroom mirror,” and perhaps also to the fog of human thought as we wait in queues, “cannot see the object of our mourning,” and listen to financial and real estate market forecasts. Or perhaps it is none of these. McEwan keeps us entertained and guessing with disparate thoughts. “Of the animals seen today only the blanket of crows migrating past reads as symbolic,” he writes. And in the next two lines: “A rezoning is in progress. Everything is on sale except for the waterproof outerwear.” This first poem registers…

I Exi(s)t/ exit I
JackPine Press / 22 April 2015

I Exi(s)t / exit I by C. Isa Lausas and Tyson Atkings Published by JackPine Press Review by Jessica Bickford $30.00 978-1-927035-15-3 I Exi(s)t / exit I is in the most basic explanation, three books musing on the same subjects brought together in one. Two monologue poems meet in a third text message dialogue between two people preoccupied with love, death, and existence. Of course, like all good art, it isn’t that simple. This book, with its white vinyl covers, titleless, and embossed with a triangle on each side begs for exploration, and it does not disappoint. With magnetic clips, it opens three different ways, revealing new content with each iteration and deepening the sense of mystery I feel clings to this book.  It never quite wants to tell you everything. I spent probably the first five or ten minutes with this book in my hands just playing with different ways to open it and finding the unique points of entry into the stories within. At the very centre of the book I found a selection of three digital photos, numbered and signed (as I Exi(s)t / exit I is limited edition), and revealing just one more detail about each…

Fog of the Outport
JackPine Press / 23 December 2014

Fog of the Outport by Robin Durnford, artwork and design by Meagan Musseau Published by JackPine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $30.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-07-8 JackPine Press is well-known for publishing artsy chapbooks. I was prepared for the unconventional, but admit I didn’t know how to approach Fog of the Outport. The textless, off-white cover and grey, hand-stitched spine offered no clues as to what might be inside; thus genre, creators, and even the title awaited discovery. I opened the book and was delighted to find a dramatic landscape reflected in silkscreen prints; a design that merges with the unfoldable back cover to create an innovative, three-paneled panorama. This limited-edition chapbook, written by Robin Durnford, and illustrated\ designed by Meagan Musseau-Newfoundlanders both-is a gorgeous collaboration featuring prose poems named for each month of the year-“february” to “february”. It’s a memorial to the life of the poet’s father, whose own father died when he was five, and it’s an homage to Durnford’s widowed grandmother, left with nine children to care and provide for on “the exposed bone-belly” of Francois NFLD, an isolated, south coast outport. There is story here, and art, and language that made my mouth water. In the first…

man from elsewhere
JackPine Press / 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…

The Daughter of a Lumberjack
JackPine Press / 20 December 2013

The Daughter of a Lumberjack by Melanie Merasty Published by JackPine Press Review by Alison Slowski $30 ISBN 978-1-927035-08-5 In this novel idea for a suite of poetry, we meet two recurring characters: a young woman and her father, the lumberjack. The reader can smell the gorgeous pine, can almost taste the sap, and can see the lumberjack father’s stubbly grey beard glittering in the light of the morning sun rising over the tops of the trees. This group of poems tells the story of a woman trying to understand her father through the framework of his history and trade. Allusions are made to her immigrant grandfather, the teacher of her father in the trade. The family’s home life is delicately touched on in “Kindling.” The collection paints a picture of the man himself. Some themes explored in this collection of poetry are that of family, of the trials and tribulations they face as the family of a lumberjack, and of the bonds that keep them together, stronger than the chains a lumberjack uses for cutting down trees. The poem “Sap” in particular tells us of Merasty’s journey: “As if I know the way a tree falls the way it…

A Eulogy For the Buoyant
JackPine Press / 22 June 2011

A Eulogy for the Buoyant by Zachari Logan Published by JackPine Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $30 978-0-9865426-2-6 From the title, a reader already knows that Zachari Logan’s A Eulogy for the Buoyant will be a book about death. It is a little book in a black paper bag, on the front of which has been stenciled the title. Modestly covered with a blank sheet of Mylar, hand bound in a thick black paper cover, inscribed, ‘for Dad’ in red pencil crayon, the book is a sandwich of drawing paper and thin rice paper with text that shows through to the studious graphite illustrations of branches and flowers. There is an elegy for a lover, a self, and a home. In a voice directed to the dead, which makes it seem more personal, less introspective, Logan explores grief in a numbered exploration called “Burgundy: 1-17” : 2People here amuse themselves, to deal with the loneliness of obscurity. Debating the timeliness of winter how breath loses contagion when February catches it. Christmas presents, tombs housing the memories of Christmas two months dead. Philosophising loss until it is little more than apprehension— and the assumption is, normality follows. Rich in language and…

Muskwa-Kechika Dayenu
JackPine Press / 1 April 2011

Muskwa-Kechika Dayenu Written and Illustrated by Dorothy Field Published by JackPine Press Reviewed by Kris Brandhagen $35 ISBN: 978-0-9782248-8-2 The poems in Dorothy Field’s Muskwa-Kechika Dayenu are physically about a journey in the Muskwa-Kechika mountains, and emotionally about grief. Pages of vivid poetry are stacked with imagery of prairie flora and fauna. “Dayenu” (pronounced Die-A-New) is Hebrew for ‘it would have been enough,’ a Passover song of gratitude. The first poem, “Transcribing Loon,” continues in a numbered sequence throughout the book, wherein the narrator recognizes sorrow and grief in the ‘sobbing’ of the loon. There are inteteresting colour combinations in “Before the Burn,” from an excited exploration of green to the “ravishing / red heat, blaze,” until the trees are black and the soil “charred”, suggesting destruction. The poem, however, comes full circle, describing the green of new life. “Into the Alpine” takes us on a mountain journey, suggesting that grief is “a glacial run-off”. “Past the end of trees,” into the alpine, grief is offered as a gift for the sky. The poem also suggests rebirth at the end with “I stretched my hand for willow fluff on taut bone stalks, / tough skeletons already supporting next year’s bloom”….

A Homemade Life
JackPine Press / 14 December 2010

A Homemade Life by Michael Trussler Published by JackPine Press Review by Kris Brandhagen Price: $35 ISBN: Gorgeous, personal, drawing up memories that conjure loss, Michael Trussler’s A Homemade Life is comprised of black and white photos and text, each a postcard unit to be rearranged on the whim of the reader. Presented in a box with a clear cover the handmade, limited edition book looks just like a package of postcards. Trussler proves himself to be well versed in the conventions of photography. The title image is a beach scene with a woman, made headless by the framing of the photograph, holding onto a leashed dog in the grassy foreground while behind them is a couple sunning themselves on lawn chairs in the sandy middle ground. The edge of a body of water is visible in the background. Intriguingly, all the figures are situated facing the photographer and not, as one might normally expect, the water. In almost perfect thirds, and with lots of windy motion, it is a successful photographic composition and a stunning hook. About twelve postcard pages in, just as I was beginning to wonder if there was a textual element to this book, the poetry…