Gould brings Prairie, people together
Reviewed by Bill Robertson (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, June 30, 2012)
I SEE MY LOVE MORE CLEARLY FROM A DISTANCE By Nora Gould Brick Books, $19
Nora Gould, who has a degree in veterinary medicine, lives in east central Alberta where she is a rancher and a volunteer with a wildlife rehabilitation centre. These characteristics, but most notably the land and her life on it, inform her poems, many of them prose-like meditations that sweep across a page or two. There are also short, almost haikus, of four or six lines, in her first collection, I see my love more clearly from a distance...
MONKEY RANCH By Julie Bruck Brick Books, $19
Julie Bruck, originally from Montreal, in her third poetry collection, Monkey Ranch, also takes on life squarely as woman, wife, mother and citizen, but her poems are generally shorter, punchier and have a droll wit to them. They see life in its parade and in the papers and cannot help but react with both humour and appalled amazement.
In Snapshot at Uxmal, 1972, for example, she looks at a photo that could be of her mother. Bruck imagines the woman in Mexico, the husband gone for the day, and her left to her own devices with their daughter (Bruck?), of whom she writes these words: "Her father's impatience hasn't flared in her yet,/ though she carries that too, an unstruck match,/ trailing her mother through the tall, dry grass." A lovely little bit of understatement.
Love To, But is a series of excuses for not participating in the myriad things we're asked to do: "Love to. Toothache./ Can't," while the title poem is a bit of surreality in which the poetic voice talks calmly about how folks at a monkey ranch let all their monkeys die off. The children didn't like it, but "(i)n those days children did/ as they were told." This sounds like its wild fantasy, but Bruck and others have seen this sort of thing on the news.
But amid all of Bruck's slightly skewed observations - of 9-11, of Obama's skull, of an Australian band - it's the vulnerability in her poems about herself as a parent and the mistakes she makes, or the sense of fate she encounters, that can take the breath away. In Girl in the Yellow Cardigan and Milk Teeth, Bruck sees the world assailing her children and knows there's little she can do but watch. And feel and write. And for that we can be grateful.