Review of A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth
From Moberley Luger , Canadian Literature online – February 15, 2012

Familiar and Strange

These books, by three established women poets, showcase new lyric poetry published in Canada. Together these collections span diverse histories, geographies, and mythologies; they deliver multiple worlds in poetry—our everyday world, as well as worlds hidden, imagined, and lost.

Stephanie Bolster’s A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth was my favourite—although I should disclose that Bolster is a mentor and friend. It has been thirteen years since Bolster won the Governor General’s Award for her first book (White Stone, 1998) and her poetry keeps getting smarter, more assured, more surprising. The thrill of this collection, her fourth, is in the way it perches (and invites readers to perch) so precariously in places at once familiar and strange. The poems are mainly set in zoos, botanical gardens, aviaries, and museums, places themselves balancing the natural and artificial. Bolster’s voice here is forthright and sure, yet also subtly distant. Indeed, the perspective in the poems is often elusive: who is the perceiver? the perceived? In one early poem, Comfort, a man who rides the metro daily, / open-palmed stares, almost longingly, through the glass of a chimpanzee’s cage at the warm hay and tires, oranges inside. As readers, we’re watchers here too, onlookers. We watch the chimpanzee and, surely, we’ve watched the man opening a hand to us on the metro. As the poem ends, the man is, once again, the one looking on. Bolster closes with this startling image: [u]nderneath, the metro runs / faces he could spend an hour watching / if the earth were made of glass. Bolster’s readers will appreciate poetry that transports them to such curious places and so delicately suggests, as a floor made of glass might suggest, new ways of seeing the world.

E. Alex Pierce’s Vox Humana … 

MLA: Luger, Moberley. Familiar and Strange. Canadian Literature, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

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