Fall is a time of renewal. While it’s thought that the true renewal comes in springtime, I’ve always felt this season is the rebirth of the mind. Maybe it’s because fall is when we pack our bags and head back to school, or because the smell of unused pencils hangs in the air, but I always feel a particular pull to my bookshelves and notepads at this time of year.
Whether you’re heading back to school, or just saying goodbye to patio beers, here are 4 books of poetry to inspire you to feel reinvigorated and ready to head into the dregs of winter.
1. Undark: An Oratorio, Sandy Pool. Nightwood Editions, 2012
“Dead factory on Davenport. Lick
tick of it. Sleep –
no. Let me have this cool, this
street corner, this newborn.
Everywhere I look; ghostly
furniture. Paperwork. Paint
dry bone. This repetition left
Sandy Pool is the queen of cool in the Canadian Poetry scene. She just received her PhD from the University of Calgary and can be spotted wearing a Transformers mask and a vintage bathing suit. Undark is an incredible poetic exploration of the Radium Girls, a group of women in the early 20th century who painted clock dials with a glow-in-the-dark paint called ‘Undark.’ Sandy makes use of historical documents and her experience writing librettos to pay homage to the women who were eaten up from the inside out by radio luminescent paint.
In addition to being an intensely visceral narrative, Undark actually glows in the dark (though you won’t find yourself poisoned by the cover).
2. Thrum, Natalie Simpson. Talonbooks, 2014
“Some kind of dangerous dream marks you. The centre contains smashing. The outward thrust evaporates.”
This book is very different from the usual poetry I read. It’s strange, exciting and above all else, incredibly challenging. It challenges perceptions of poetry and sound and makes the reader a better poet. Natalie is a Calgarian poet whose second book was much anticipated, and her writing employs many techniques, including found poetry. Found poetry uses ‘found’ texts, or words from an outside source, to create something new. For example, Natalie creates a poem entirely out of newspaper headlines that include the word ‘tot.’
This is a book that destroys notions of poetry and form in order to build within the reader a sense of unfamiliarity and an acute strangeness.
3. Cunt Norton, Dodie Bellamy. Trenchart: Logistics, 2013
“Thou art like a thought supplied, unblemished since I behold no more thy body naked in all its aching joys. Thou art now smudgy like on television. I try not to mourn nor murmur—other gifts have followed, sexy ones too—but thou didst turn my whole body into abundant recompence as we pushed up against the wall growling with thoughtless youth. Hearing thy voice I oftentimes dream thou art fucking me freshly like bread—not grating, though I touch my body and pretend it’s thy hands deeply infusing my dwelling, lightly squeezing my breasts, sliding through ocean and the living air, and the blue sky, and tapestries.” (Cunt Wordsworth)
Seamlessly switching from man to woman, the hermaphroditic prose in this book is impeccable. Each poem imagines a different famous poet as a narration of a sex act. This book is delightful, startling and delicious. Dodie’s poems devour you just as you devour them. The text illuminates the language of sex in a way that opens the reader (both literally and figuratively) to a new oeuvre of sexual and literary experiences.
You may want to read this alone lest your appreciation for literature stains your bus seat.
4. MxT, Sina Queyras. Coach House Books, 2014
“I went to the library looking to scaffold my thoughts.
Sure, now you say Lucretius. Intelligence is so often
Hindsight. Outside Holly Golightly’s townhouse
There are taxis. The end of me, or you, is of no concern.”
MxT, or Memory x Time by Sina Queyras is a book of mourning that invokes femininity and longing to eschew contemporary ideas of death. Using imagined formulas for grief, Sina beautifully constructs frenetic narratives, recalls spirits and confronts death in all its forms. Most notably, however, she does this with honesty, wit and resilience. Whether you’re morning a lost lover, a family member or simply the end of the summer, this book invokes healing without overwrought sentimentality.
Sina’s poem, “I am no Lady, Lazarus,” available to read here is a response to Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Lady Lazarus,” which makes clear that her work is perfect for fans of confessional poetry.