Poetry can seem intimidating, especially if you were scarred by it in english class in high school. But Michael V. Smith’s latest collection of poems, Bad Ideas is very accessible and richly rewarding: reading his poems feels like watching a beautiful rainbow, his words wash over you in waves of colourful emotions – joy, sadness, grief, and humour. His poetry is not weighed down by oblique references or excess verbiage: he speaks plainly and from his personal experience dealing with family trauma, lost loved ones and long-distance friends. Bad Ideas is a great introduction to poetry in the 21st century. (Submitted by Andrea)
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“There are strange things done/in the midnight sun/By the men who moil for gold/The Arctic trails have their secret tales/That would make your blood run cold/The Northern Lights/ have seen queer sights/But the queerest they ever did see/Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge/I cremated Sam McGee.”
Robert Service was a mild-mannered bank clerk in real life, but the way this poem makes the Arctic come alive, you’d think the man was a veteran of the Klondike. It’s funny; the version of Sam McGee I remember from my childhood conjures up images of grinning corpses, lonely cold, and complete silence, save for the sound of a lone sled’s runners slicing eerily through the snow. Bleak, strange, wildness…all surrounded by devastating, enveloping cold. When I pulled it off the shelves today and gave it a quick re-read, I was surprised (and delighted) to find that not only does it still have all that wildness, it’s funny, too. There is definite humour in these pages – the unnamed speaker of the poem lends some definite snark to the situation.
What a great tale. Each time I read this poem, I get chills. There are poems that have the ability to completely transport us to a specific time and place, and Robert Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee remains one of the best. Brrrrrrr!
P.S. Bonus Canadian points go to this edition because it’s illustrated by Ted Harrison. (Submitted by Veronica)
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I loved this book of poetry. Heidi’s words evoked imagery that made me laugh out loud, nod knowingly, blush furiously, and feel sadly. One of my favourite poems “Alberta Visitor” summarizes how I feel when I leave our oceanfront existence on the Westcoast to visit family in Edmonton:
houses here so far from anything
make me want to knock on doors
ask how did I/you
ever get here
Please read it! (Submitted by Meghan).
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I laughed out loud and read aloud, relishing Kevin Spenst’s fantastic way with words. This is a book of poetry chronicling his upbringing in Surrey, delving into issues of religion, mental health, politics, culture, and the always interesting experience of growing up. I really enjoyed it. Kevin is a great speaker and I can’t wait to hear him share his poetry in person. (Submitted by Meghan).
Meet Kevin at Authors Among Us: Remembering the Past in Poetry and Prose at Guildford Library on Wed, Nov 4 at 6:30pm. Call 604-598-7374 to save your spot.
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