Wednesday, October 22, 2008


In the Introduction to poetry Anthology II by the Local Lot, James Pickersgill cleverly posits that “the fact I write poetry does not mean I am crazy in society’s eyes.” Pickersgill clarifies that the assembly of poets in this anthology, published by Ink Bottle Press, have a social function, reassuring each other that they are “not alone in this gentle madness.”

My employment in the Centre of the UnitVerse always prevented me from attending the poetry readings the Cobourg Poetry Workshop has hosted. Last month was my first. It was welcoming, warm, comfortable, intelligent and everyone spoke with bits of eloquence pirouetting off their tongues. They’re poets, eh?

Anthology II is quite a hash of poetry, from the sublime to the bland, from sharp to dull, and levels in between.

In Vexatious Stack, poet-photographer, Ted Amsden is brilliantly insolent about the labour conditions at the local newspaper, concluding

I could certainly do better than drag my ass into that
old word mill on King Street just to get in line
. . . . . . . . . . to pass the buck.
. . . . . . . . . .oh dear
. . . . . . . . . .so much memory
. . . . . . . . . .and oh so
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . little motivation

Paul Brown, in his poem ‘a softer sound’ has this gem of an image:

a crow in the overhanging maple
disturbed by the new air
makes a noise like a spike being pulled out of wood

What a wood-wrenching sound that would be, especially in a poem titled, ‘a softer sound’. But then again, 'Haiku is a one-night stanza'. Mr Brown recently told the Cobourg Daily Star that his "poetry attempts to be accessible to everyone, rather than exclusionary or esoteric. In current times, poetry is marginalized and completely off most people's radar."

Bridget Campion’s two poems are narrative in nature. There is none of the poetic clutter (metaphor, simile, alliteration, rhyme, etc) in her poems. Life Cycle is a wonderfully crafted narrative, right from the opening line, “My hands span the flat backs” all the way through to the closing lines “like a baby.” The narrative opens with baby and moves on to grandfather and neatly ties them together. The poem gives good closure.

Mark Clement has a great opening line, “The remembrance of spring is held by the earth.” This holds immense possibilities. What if the earth had a season of forgetfulness?

Marta Cooper’s poetry is rich with childish charm, notably, ‘turn’ which is a highly charged erotic poem about two frolicking kites making out in the heavens. In her poem, ‘scissors’, she captures the visceral urban grit of “alley garbage smells don’t wander through open windows to squat in our apartment.”

Glenda Jackson’s poem, Chocolate Seduction, has the heat of eroticism, but cleverly distributes it by avoiding any gender identification whatsoever. Is chocolate a man? Or is it a woman? I’m not prone to write poetry in rhyme, but Glenda pulls it off very well; it adds a flouncy charm of a summer dress. The hyperbole in the last stanza is excessive, but works.

Deborah Panko’s, Related, is another narrative poem that is deliciously subtle to the last line, a clever cinch: “This birdwatching thing, it runs in the family.”

James Pickersgill has a great opening stanza in Small Trance:

These flowers in beds enter me
In some glory of germination
Like preparing to seed themselves
From the tips of my fingers...

The way this poem reads, lends itself to conjecture that it’s a performance poem to be read aloud in the best oral tradition. In a recent Cobourg Daily Star interview, Pickersgill says that "much of the time the creative process happens while I'm running," perhaps as a fugitive on the run from mediocrity, and escaping quite diligently, I might add. He continues, [creativity] "can occur at anytime, while I'm having a bath, daydreaming at work." Poetically stricken.

Eric Winter has written a long poem. There are speed bumps of obscure references along the way, but the last stanza of the poem is a clincher, a diamond in the rough:

Time to work at the word bench
Among sharp edges
The blunted ambiguities
The slow turned word,
The ambiguous foundation,
The fabric of the thought
That is the father to the deed.
Time now for time past,
For standing on the shoulders,
For another sort of usefulness,
For getting back to the good old stars,
The celestial ones.

Grahame Woods’ poem, Winter Dusk, contains this striking image, “scanning corn field’s snow-lathered 5 o’clock stubble.” If this is not enough, he goes on to write, What If?, a poem of sharp dark satire, a good sense of humour with a smirk. “What does God do when the Germans pray to win the war?” Truth is child’s play for a child.

The Local Lot aka Cobourg Poetry Workshop have a good thing going. It’s small, it’s intimate, and doesn’t have a well-financed outreach program. Back in the day, when Foster Russell was publisher/editor of the Cobourg Sentinel-Star, he filled empty spaces for poems, continuing in the tradition of R.D. Chatterton who published Susanna Moodie’s poems in the Cobourg Star in 1833.

It’s a great anthology of a Local Lot of poetry.
It’s a great anthology of a Lot of Local poetry.
It deserves more attention -- in local schools.

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