Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets, Zach Wells (Ed.): You can’t read too many sonnets. It’s the one form that has been so well received and so versatile as to resist time’s ravages. This book contains a wonderful variety of sonnets from a number of well-known and lesser known sonneteers across the country. There are no particular topics that Wells has adhered to in the selecting, but has instead let quality and freshness be the deciding factor. Highs: Great poems all around, with some wonderful treasures I have not read and authors I had not been aware of at the time of reading. Lows: The majority of these poems are more contemporary, some of which are quite recent. This is admirable, but I think this was done at some cost to expressing past writers more fully. Generally speaking however, I do believe contemporary poets deserve plenty of exposure, so if this is Wells’ purpose he has succeeded brilliantly.
Track & Trace, Zach Wells: Speaking of Zach Wells, did you know he released a book of poems this year? As a proponent of metrical and formal verse he does a great job of showing his own skill at the craft. The art for the book, by the way, is done by Seth and is quite fitting for the volume. Highs: Some excellent poems here that cover a variety of settings and topics, but seem to focus more on the northern bounds of Canada and, in some places, Scotland. Wells has also provided us a volume of poetry that doesn’t contain much filler; there are 30-odd poems, keeping the contents trimmed to showcase more good poems, undiluted. Lows: I would have liked to see Wells attempt a variety of other poetic forms beyond sonnets and a couple other metrically driven structures. That said, the ones included are quite competently composed.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Stephen Rowe has posted a roundup of his 2009 reading over on his blog. It includes some commentary on both Jailbreaks and Track & Trace:
I've nothing to say about his evaluative comments, but a couple of factual errors need to be addressed. Only one of the poems in T&T is set in a northern Canadian locale ("Mussel Mud," versions of which appeared in my first book, which is entirely set in northern locations) and one in Scotland ("Orkney Report"). The other 32 are set, explicitly or otherwise, in PEI, Montreal, Vancouver, New Westminster, Halifax, Diligent River (NS) and Nowhere-in-Particular, so I'm a bit puzzled by Stephen's geography.
Also, depending on how you count such things, around 15 of the 34 poems in T&T are neither sonnets (including very loose sonnets like "He Learns Faith in His Instincts" and "Water Works," which have neither rhyme scheme nor meter), nor metrical, nor stanzaic, but different variations on free verse, so it's not strictly accurate to state that I attempted only "sonnets and a couple other metrically driven structures."