Poetry is alive and well in northwestern Ontario and these poets prove it in spades with their ready eyes, attuned ears,and enduring poetic attention. Immerse yourself in Sue Blott’s winter paintbox, Sharon Irvine’s blue moon over a frozen lake, Sherri Lankinen’s pine siskins, Cathy Carroll’s water prayer, and Mary Frost’s symphony of oranges.
A rich spectrum of northern landscapes, poignant evocations of home.
A bedrock of talent.
Jeanette Lynes, Author of A Woman Alone on the Atikokan Highway, It's Hard Being Queen
Five vibrant poetic voices evoke the elusiveness, the beauty, the intensity and the inscrutability of the boreal landscape. Like sunlight through spruce branches, these poems swoop at us, producing haunting meditations as clear as the aurora, as sharp as northern ice and as enchanting as a summer day at the lake. This stunning collection links the reader to life in the north as the poems unfold the secrets of the great shield. Start anywhere in the volume, read forwards or backwards, but prepare to be dazzled.
~ Joan Baril, writer, http://literarythunderbay.blogspot.com/
Review by Deborah deBakker in the Chronicle-Journal, Sunday 17th April 2011:
Core Samples: Poems from Northwestern OntarioThe Thunder Bay Publishing Cooperative ($18; 116 pages)
By Deborah de Bakker
Being a poet means waking up and noticing what’s around you. If you live in the Thunder Bay area, some of the things you will notice are Mount McKay, Lake Superior, moose on the highway and deer in the garden—what Sharon Irvine calls “Real life in Northwestern Ontario.”
Core Samples is a new collection of poems by five local authors. The title refers to our mining industry and also to the authors’ desire to provide samples of the core of poetry from the area. These women are by no means the only poets of note in the region, but by collaborating in this collection, they present a strong poetic voice for Northwestern Ontario and the Canadian Shield, an area that is too often unheard or ignored.
The reflections are the poets’ own, of course, and they are often personal. (As Sharon Irvine says, “You want to be a real poet? / Be prepared to strip.”) But they also point to our common experiences living in this region and help us see that we have “roots in every birch and balsam” (Mary Frost).
The book is divided into five sections, with 15-20 poems in each author’s distinct voice. Mary Frost is irreverent; Cathy Carroll excels in using sounds to create atmosphere; Sharon Irvine tells stories; Sherri Lankinen keenly observes the behaviour of trees, birds and people in South Gillies; Sue Blott reflects on a more gritty, urban experience.
A poetry anthology allows the reader to flip through, sample and put the book down for a while to digest. Try Sue Blott’s “Northern Belonging,” where she hears her name “bellowed by Bombardier’s whistle / four times every day”; or Cathy Carroll’s “Two Boys Fishing,” where a bear pops up between a terrified mother and her oblivious sons; or Sherri Lankinen’s “Perfect Year for Corn,” where, ironically, “even the plentiful deer agree” that the crop is good.
Mary Frost’s “Fundraiser Oranges,” which plays on the joy of citrus fruit in winter and the close ties between oranges and our local symphony orchestra, is reprinted here (with permission) in its entirety.
“By February, an orange / is all I have left of the sun. / Half-a-dozen in a bowl on the table / make a campfire. / A box of them in the laundry-room / is money in the bank.
“These are symphony oranges, / juicy with music. / I buy them for the soundtrack. / Trumpets and harps. / They come with strings attached: / my chamber orchestra. / I want to applaud / between segments.”
It’s unfortunate that most of the poems now read by students in Northwestern Ontario come from other parts of Canada or abroad. Our students learn all about Wordsworth’s delight in wandering over a hill in the Lake District of England and coming across a field of daffodils. But how much more relevant and compelling it would be for them to read Sharon Irvine’s poem about traveling along a gravel road and all at once seeing a cow moose licking her calves.
The public is welcome to attend the launch of Core Samples on Wednesday May 11 at 7 pm at the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel. For more information, go to http://coresamplespoetry.blogspot.com.
Thunder Bay resident Deborah de Bakker is a writer and avid reader.