Monday, 15 July 2019

@amreading Carolyne Van Der Meer, Journeywoman

Here is a collection of poetry that reads like exquisite prose full of evocative imagery.

Think of the etymology of “journeyman”, which describes a stage in learning one’s craft. It’s derived from journée, a day’s work or travel. And these poems are about becoming a master of womanhood, but also about the journey itself – where does life take us? In Van Der Meer’s poetry we travel the whole distance, from the gritty to the sublime, from food and sex to the dental chair, from cancer to sainthood.

Here are some of her recipes for life:

Tapas in the Plaza Ana

…On the second day,

we visit the Prado

buy handmade Mallorcan tap shoes,

then sink into wicker chairs,

sip rioja and local Naturbier

order tapas-

liver paste,

oiled salmon, blue cheese,

chorizo and jamon


despite sore feet

sweaty brows

I attempt poetry

jagged lines spiked emotions

inspiration from dead Spaniards

Homemade Pasta on New Year’s

The more you put into it, the better it tastes…

later when I roll them around my fork

with porcini mushrooms drenched in cream

I savour the harmony of tastes

remember the hardness

his arms

shudder, satiated, understand

the more you put into it

Monday, 8 July 2019

@amreading Rayanne Haines, Stained With The Colours of Sunday Morning.

Did you know that a family epic can be written in 60 poems? Rayanne Haines has managed this astonishing feat. In a slim book of poems she tells us the story of three generations of women – Georgia, Isabella, and Alina, whose Italian heritage lives on in Canada. All of life is contained in these verses: sex (my skin carries the spices/ of men I’ve made love to), marriage (don’t ask the wild women heart in me to bend), the mother-daughter relationship (my angry daughter, unreachable by me), even the Canadian weather: We wondered if the earth/was trying to finish herself off./ Each February was the same./Our bodies desperate/for the lush wine blood of the sea.

My personal favourite: Questioning Birds

in italy my grandmother

had two canaries

housed in separate cages

so they would sing to the other

…released only occasionally

from their shackles

for a brief taste of flight

i never understood

why they let themselves

be controlled  confined

why they did not rebel

               remain silent in protest.  

@amreading Michael Helm, AFTER JAMES

Alph, an experimental creativity pill and the concept of neuropharmaceutical enhancement of your brain is ghosting around in this novel. Ali, who tests it, has a numinous lifting. It brings a feeling of simultaneity, not tick or tock but both at once, sustained. It opens the mind to connections otherwise obscured by temporal distances, by fading and forgetting. One of the subjects had written of “absolute presence.”

Henry James (the “James” of the title) set the precedence in his novel The Turning of the Screw. His ghost story seemed to confirm the existence of a thing not yet named, like an invisible planet postulated through math. James understood these internal phenomena. The effects of Alph were not supernatural and yet brought the presence of something unseen.

Ali reads James’ novel and has a vision – Alph was crossing the blood-brain barrier. The chemical appeared as small attenuating swirlings in the blood, like tornadoes…the image lasted only a few seconds, but it was as certain as the remembered lines of text. They return with more force than when she read them. She was in two places at once, in two times at once. Was the border between the states of vision and reality eroding? And was her present reality itself already compromised? Certainly she was experiencing slight jump cuts in time. Without seeming to have returned to it, she was back at her desk.

Is the protagonist of the next chapter on the same drug? He has been hired by the enigmatic Durant to interpret poems posted on a website, but soon finds that anyone who tried to penetrate it began to see their own lives communicated back with terrifying veracity. He experiences a heightening of his senses. I was aware of my failure to see, of having grouped a series of first glances into a type based on a general similarity and so overlooking each distinct feature. It was what everyone did, this lazy way of seeing. Suddenly he recognizes the man who was following him. Was it a sharpening of his senses or just paranoia?

In the typical fashion of contemporary literature, Michael Helm disdains explaining things to the reader. You’ll have to figure them out for yourself.

Thursday, 4 July 2019


So where are the horses?

Never mind the horses! We are only interested in hats.