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Review of A Walker in the City
From Frances Sprout , Materfamilias Reads blog, April 1, 2012

City Poems by Méira Cook

Perhaps what I should do is try to aim for a weekly post and just say as much as I can in the time I have about the books I’ve read that week. Sadly, even if I try to adopt that approach, I’m already far behind — about 9 books read  but not recorded, and we’re only at March. Yikes!

So quick sketches: Méira Cook’s A Walker in the City. As I said of this collection when I “pinned” the book cover illustration to the Pinterest “Today’s Poem” board (go look, it’s fabulously inspiring!), I love the narratives folded in narratives, but this collection abounds with pleasures, rhythm perhaps at the top of the list, images vying closely for that spot. Delightful, truly.

In some ways an ode to Winnipeg, the collection is playful and urban and richly allusive but  not intimidatingly so.

Snatches: “The people in this city / are like strike-anywhere matches, // blazing friendships on street corners, / in elevators. Ready to rub heads / with anyone, everyone, flaring briefly / in the dusk.

She is a walker in the city, / of young & brimming age, so / suffers the streets to move through her, / to move her. The foot a precise // approximation of length. Like poetic metre / or the distance at any one radius / between two radiant lovers.”

In a poem “His Heart Redux”: “Dawn, weather, bones (sympathetic list of things easily broken) . . . echoing an earlier poem “1:25” “Walking turns the future into a list of fragile nouns: what may be / broken. Day, eggs, hearts, horses. / Bones, silence, glass, rhythm. / Shoes broken in, light broken through, prisoners / out.”  — see? satisfying for a reader, pulling these threads through the pages to see the work acquiring a new shape.

And I love the opening stanza of “Sleepwalking”:

Sleepwalkers awake! stumbling about
with your eyes burning slow holes
in the insides of your minds for words
in the shape of birds to flap through . . .

There’s much, much more to savour in this lively collection. I’m hoping to teach it 2013-14 in a Canadian poetry course focusing on urban poetry; it will make a nice counterpart to recent collections set in Vancouver, as well as other Canadian cities, and I think it will be fun to place it in a historical context of urban Canadian poetry through the 20th century (and even back into the 19th). So I’m sure I’ll come back to write more about these poems here. For now, this quick sketch will have to do. Pick up your own copy — let me know what you think. Or visit the publisher Brick Book’s website to hear some of the poems read by Cook.

http://materfamiliasreads.blogspot.ca/2012/04/city-poems-by-meira-cook.html

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