Line Dance

4 November 2016

Line Dance
An anthology of poetry, selected and edited by Gerald Hill
published by Burton House Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$20.00 ISBN 9-780994-866912

Before I say anything else about Line Dance – the cool new poetry anthology driven by SK Poet Laureate Gerald Hill’s “First Lines” project – a disclaimer: two lines from one of my poems appear within it. Apart from that, I had zilch to do with this book that handily demonstrates the wealth of poetic voices in the homeland, the range of human imagination, and how art inspires art.

Each weekday during Poetry Month in April, Hill e-mailed SK Writers’ Guild members a pair of first lines he’d selected from SK poetry books and invited folks to respond with poems of their own. Some, like professionals Brenda Schmidt and Ed Willett, sent poems every day. In the end, almost 500 pieces were submitted, and SK writing veteran-turned publisher, Byrna Barclay, bound what editor Hill deemed the best into a handsome package, featuring Saskatchewanian David Thauberger’s art on the cover.

If you already read homegrown poetry, you’ll recognize several names here. The quoted include Dave Margoshes, Judith Krause, Paul Wilson, Gary Hyland, Elizabeth Philips, Bruce Rice, Louise Halfe, and Robert Currie. Their quotes spawned poems by the likes of Katherine Lawrence, dee Hobsbawn-Smith, Lynda Monahan, Sharon MacFarlane, and Jim McLean. The book also introduces newer writers, like Lumsden’s Karen Nye, who incorporated something from all the selected quotes for the book’s opening act.

Although the poems appear in the order the quotes were e-mailed, the book proper begins and ends with strong pieces – as books generally do – by multi-genre writer Dave Margoshes. A few pages later, in a poem that blooms with prairie imagery, Laurie Muirhead delivers the beautiful line “a mirage of tiger lilies”. Dee Hobsbawn-Smith deserves a bow for her phrase “the mud of missing you,” and for the emotional depth of her dog-related poems in this collection. (Five stars for the “November-coloured dog” in her graphic piece “Hunting”.) Similarly, Lynda Monahan packs a punch with her powerful and heartfelt pieces. In “Saying the Unsayable Things” she writes of “the white heart of your suffering” and how “nothing I write anymore matters/in the face of it”.

Ed Willett’s penned sci-fi/fantasy poems and showcases his sense of humour (“Please don’t think we’re prejudiced/against vampires” and “my husband hasn’t held a steady job/since he became a werewolf”), as does the ever-clever and perceptive Brenda Schmidt, ie: “I’ve always known the backroad/is the road less graveled”. Ruth Chorney wrote a terrific piece inspired by Brenda Niskala’s humdinger line: “The man at the door with a gun is our son./We think he’s after our money.” Robert Currie puts his voice to fine use in story-poems.

This is Saskatchewan. From Fort Qu’Appelle to Prince Albert, SaskPower to the Co-op. From “little sandwiches and bowls of bitter pickles” (Schmidt) in halls to “the bellering heifer/helpless in the chute” (Bonnie Dunlop). Congratulations and thanks to the poets, to Gerry Hill, to the SWG (for their hand in the project), and to Byrna Barclay for making Line Dance Burton House Book’s inaugural poetry title. Great dance!


Download the catalogue here.

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