Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part five,

Ottawa ON: I’ve been enjoying the progression of Ottawa poet and editor (In/Words magazine and press, Canthius) Manahil Bandukwala’s poems over the past year or two, especially in what I’m seeing in her latest chapbook, Paper Doll (Toronto ON: Anstruther Press, 2019). This is a collection of ten increasingly-precise poems on culture, language and identity—speaking to belonging, connection, conflict and disconnect)—through the small moments and meditations around family, travel and school. As she writes in the poem “I can’t shelve my race to study for a midterm”: “Always remember / animals are not for humans and your language / is not for you. Your tongue can’t bear the music.”

What better place
to shed my skin
than here? What better place
to reclaim skeleton
steam off white particles. This is where
we’re golden. Surviving bridges
while we bleed out
broken trails
for others to follow. These are my siblings
my aunties and uncles
looking for reclamation. They drip
on the patches I have left,
build upon the trail of others. (“II,” “Heat”)

Toronto ON: I’ve also been quite taken with the long, lyric streams of Toronto poet and editor Khashayar Mohammadi’s latest, Dear Kestrel (Toronto ON: knife │fork│book, 2019), a collection of fourteen self-contained lyrics held together through a sequence of eight numbered “Dear Kestrel” poems, writing out a series of epistolary gestures: “lately / each affinity becomes love / moistens to lucidity / prosthetic / to the body / the comradery of stale breath” (“Dear Kestrel III”). Mohammadi’s poems are fluid, expansive and curious, embracing both gesture and meditation, and seeking out answers to a myriad of unanswerable questions. Or as a section of “Dear Kestrel IV” reads:

Dear Kestrel,
last night I saw a little girl
dragging a toy truck
tethered to her wrist
Was that a poem Kes?
Is this?

No comments: