No Apologies for the Weather
Thistledown Press / 7 October 2009

No Apologies for the Weather by Taylor Leedahl Published by Thistledown Press Reviewed by Carrie Prefontaine $12.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-51-5 No Apologies for the Weather is Saskatoon poet Taylor Leedahl’s bold poetic debut. Tracing the poet’s movement into maturity, the volume confidently and intricately explores identity, sexuality, and intimacy. Saturated with a wisdom beyond the poet’s years, the poetry also retains the sparkle, vigour, and occasionally, idealism, of her adolescence. Many of the poems are firmly rooted in places that will be familiar to Saskatoon readers, reminding us how strongly our experience of place shapes our sense of self. In the poem “Out Here I Declare Myself,” for example, prairie bluffs provide an appropriate backdrop for the poet’s struggle to define herself: “Out here I declare myself / And reap entertainment from birch trees. / Slender knobby knees, paper peels / to reveal another layer / of the same flaking skin. / If only a piece of me had these qualities…” Leedahl has an eye for detail and she paints those details into multi-layered, melodious poems. Indeed, Leedahl’s poetry is coloured by music and her wordplay is brightly lyrical. Poems such as “A Personal Revolution on Your Skin,” “Ocean in Autumn…

Sumac’s Red Arms
Coteau Books / 30 September 2009

Sumac’s Red Arms by Karen Shklanka Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $16.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-402-6 Must one live an interesting life in order to write interesting poetry? I would argue that no, this is not a requirement, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The Vancouver poet, family physician, world traveler, and flamenco dancer, Karen Shklanka, draws from her own rich experience and has much to tell in her first book of poetry, Sumac’s Red Arms. She sets many of her often surprising poems against the various locales she’s called home: Moose Factory, Ontario; Sydney, Australia; Los Angeles; Houston; Salt Spring Island; and Regina. The first poems reveal scenarios from the poet’s medical work in a northern Ontario community. We meet “James,” who “woke bleeding on a battlefield of empties\and limp friends” and has “been sitting all morning with a gun to his head”. And we’re introduced to “The Girl From Attawapiskat”: “She spits on me as they wheel her out on the stretcher”. These are no-nonsense anecdotes, and Shklanka adopts a journalistic style to convey them, thus ensuring that sentimentality does not cloud the telling. In the book’s radically different second section, “The Scent of Cloves,” readers are…

Terminal Moraine
Thistledown Press / 10 June 2009

Terminal Moraine by Ian LeTourneau Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $12.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-53-9 In 2008, Thistledown Press celebrated the release of its 10th New Leaf Editions Series of poetry books by first-time authors, and what a celebration it was. At the launch — arguably among SK’s top literary events of the year — one of four poets on stage was Ian LeTourneau, a former Maritimer now living in Athabasca AB. With new book in hand, LeTourneau transported listeners with the unique music only a finely-tuned poem can make. Terminal Moraine is a landmark book. It entertains and ferries readers to the “otherworld” poetry inhabits, but it could also be well-used in writing workshops, as LeTourneau’s poems have much to teach us. Reversals (ie: the tide, time, memory), renewals, and re-ordering predominate, but within these themes there exists great diversity in subject, tone, and form. Aside from the free verse favoured by many contemporary poets, LeTourneau also incorporates sonnets, odes (ie: “Fireplace” and “Bicycle”), a paradelle, a triolet, and couplets. There are translations (from the French); poems inspired by other poets; by photographs; music; landscapes; family; and friends. More specifically, the found poem, “Wind Farm,” credits the…

You
Hagios Press / 21 May 2009

If readers are at all familiar with Saskatchewan literature, they are familiar with Gary Hyland. His list of awards – literary, teaching, community-based – is long and impressive, including, recently, the Book of the Year and the Poetry Award (2008 Saskatchewan Book Awards) for “Love of Mirrors: Poems New and Selected”. With “You,” however, Hyland fans can expect a somewhat different voice than in earlier publications.

Yellowgrass
Hagios Press / 29 April 2009

It’s clear that the poet also keeps one eye on the larger world, fraught as it is with economic crises, ecological issues, and war. Safarik, then, is the best kind of seer

Mongrel Love
Hagios Press / 1 October 2008

Krause experiments with poetic forms, line endings, and imagery. The words and images in Mongrel Love are chosen to take the reader along on the journey. “We are all wounded/& beautiful” says the title poem, as we travel “the fruitless/ quest for the familiar.”

Phosphorus
Thistledown Press / 6 September 2008

Like numerous other professional writers’, Heidi Garnett’s work had appeared in reputable literary journals and chapbooks, was broadcast on CBC, and earned her awards. She had honed her craft at the renowned Banff Centre, and participated in other creative writing programs. In short, the poet had an impressive curriculum vitae before her first book, “Phosphorus,” was ever published, and the proof of her apprenticeship is in the quality of the poems themselves.