In her new collection, Governor General Literary Award-winning poet Stephanie Bolster employs imagery from art collecting, zoos and travel to hold up a glass to human experience and thought. Bolster highlights our limitations through the foibles of human endeavour. Irony abounds in easy lines, such as the observation “The arcades sell postcards of old photographs of the arcades.”
These poems range in subject and location, but stay within the controlled radius of significance found within cages and art collections, or constrained by cameras and words. The style and tone shifts as well, from introspective pieces to more descriptive poems. In theme, though, these poems return again and again to the idea of loss within a trapped existence or a contradictory reality, insisting “there is no other There.”
From the opening poem, Life of the Mind (Wanders), with its list of juxtaposed observations, to the last line of the final poem, Life of the Mind (Night), Bolster engages the reader’s attention with a minutiae of telling detail, seeking the integral image to challenge our expectations and assumptions.
Excerpts from history, philosophy and music infuse these poems and the collection, wide-ranging as it is, contribute to a sense of illuminated claustrophobia. Reading these poems, it is as though we, like the apes in Bolster’s Life of the Mind (Wonders), look out through “Bars and human faces, some obscured by cameras,” guests and prisoners in a world of our own creation.
Heather Craig for the Telegraph-Journal