April is National Poetry month and while I (sadly) don’t read as much poetry as I used to, I had to dig into a couple new Canadian poetry books to celebrate! I was planning to share four new launches from Penguin Random House Canada, but I ended up dividing my reviews into two posts, so today is A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes by Madhur Anand* and The Wrong Cat by Lorna Crozier*, with a second post coming in May because we can celebrate poetry every month!
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A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes by Madhur Anand is an innovative mix of science and poetry, that as a (at least semi) creative person in graduate school for science, I was pretty excited about. That said, while I definitely appreciate what Anand does, I can’t say it always successful. Some poems to end up too heavy on the science, like ‘Empty Calories’ where each line is a list of sugars such as “fructose / galactose / glucose”, which may flow nicely at times but comes across more as jargon than something to evoke emotion.
Still, in many cases Anand offers beautiful thoughts with a profound double meaning, often in a scientific context, such as in ‘Iris germanica‘ where she writes “The price of the root is not the price of the flower.” In ‘Hill Country, Old Mercedes, and Parturition’ she offers, “There’s a new index for predicting catastrophes / It’s the decreasing rate of recovery from small / perturbations. The critical slowing down before / a tipping point.”
Interesting, not only are many of the poems written in 13-syllabel lines, and, as Anand explains, only carbon with an atomic mass of 12 and 13 are stable (occurring in a 99:1 ratio in the natural world), but in fact 13 of the poems draw their text and phrases entirely from her own scientific papers. It is with those poems that Anand truly shows the blurred line between science and art, as she writes in ‘No Two Things Can Be More Equal’, they are “Two lines of one length, parallel.”
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After her 2011 book Small Mechanics, Lornia Crozier quickly became a poet I couldn’t wait to read more from. However I had to wait four more years with her next collection of poetry, The Wrong Cat, only just being released last month. Two aspects of The Wrong Cat stand out in particular–the strong animal connection, and the lyrical storytelling I first loved about Crozier. There’s a darkness to her poems, a woman who has eaten berries nibbled on by rats, or an attempt to drown an otter.
Crozier’s words are filled with emotion, and there’s a series I loved in which animals offer a perspective on man. In ‘Crow’s Take on Man’ she writes, “They never take the shortest route / and use too many words when a caw would do.”
In The Wrong Cat nature and human nature mix together and the end result is evocative and bittersweet, a hint of spark even as the world darkness. For, as Crozier writes in ‘An Extraordinary Fondness for Beetles’:
“I like to think
of my soul as that beetle, pushing what’s left
of the light that was once me
out of the world.'”
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Do you have a favourite poet? Let me know who! Reading these books has just reminded me how enriching a good poem can be.