Handfuls of Bone, Monica Kidd
2012, Gaspereau Press, Kentville NS
$19.95, 978-1-55447-114-0, 80 pages
reviewed by rob mclennan
Newfoundland writer and doctor Monica Kiddís second trade collection of poems, Handfuls of Bone (Kentville NS: Gaspereau Press, 2012), engage a sharp quality, a kind of descriptive lyric shorthand that suggest (and realize) the unexplored corners of how stories are told, and just what lies in the unseen corners of certain tales. Kiddís poems engage with storytelling, outposts, meditative objects, and historical figures such as Amelia Earhart, crafting poems that embody a comfort, inquiry and compassion, crafted for the outposts at the far end of the world. Handfuls of Bone is Kiddís second poetry collection, after Actualities (Gaspereau Press, 2007), and she is also the author of two novels, including The Momentum of Red (Vancouver BC: Polestar, 2004), and a creative non-fiction titles, any other woman: an uncommon biography (Edmonton AB: NeWest Press, 2008). Kidd explores distances, both real and imagined, and Iím intrigued by her explorations of the prose-poem, such as the four-part ďMeditation on Fritz Sickís Old Style Pilsner,Ē the first section of which reads:
That label. Married in my mind to curling shoes and Ski-Doo suits, the mildewed cargo choking my fatherís basement to keep it from looters at the home place: previous jetsam. The basement fridge, round around the edges, like it had bounced down one too many gravel-bottom staircases. Cases of skunky beer interred alongside summerís wilted carrots. Always that inscrutable bottle of Galliano.
Grandmother died at the foot of those steps. He reminds me of this when he visits my home with its long, straight stairs, and me with a baby on each hip. The house burned, and they buried the ashes, thatís all. The dark corners where I would not venture. The particular quality of cold down there.
Unlike most Canadian poets who play with the lyric, Kidd isnít afraid of the full sentence, yet she seems to understand how to use it in a way that isnít replicating prose. Crafting a series of lyric moments that collage into an accumulation, and less a straight narrative line, Kiddís sentences might not go as far as, say, Cole Swensenís or Lisa Robertsonís, but are still grounded firmly in the story that she skips around the telling.
A long memory is the most radical idea in America.
U. Utah Phillips
Morning creeps over the old country.
Past the windows of our train rush
pines and cliffs and poppies in
absurd abundance. Pale fingers
worry a rosary. In TrstenŠ: music
from gunmetal lilies, and beyond
the platform, a sign pointing to Krakow.
Mothers of mothers peeping from behind
the drapery. What stories we tell: that you arrived
in the mouth of a bird; that beauty is truth;
that orphan boys scratching in ditches
may one day be kings.
Be nimble enough to see the lies
and full of the courage to believe.
Born in Ottawa, Canadaís glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2011, and his most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com