Tag Archive | local

Based on Actual Events – Robert Moore

Writing a review of a collection of poetry is not the same as writing a book review. I tried the last time Robert Moore released a collection of poems, The Golden Book of Bovinities. Poetry is a pricklier proposition. (See what I did there with the alliteration and all – just so you know I do get some of those poetic bells and whistles.)

567 Bob and I have known each other for twenty-five years. I met him back in 1991, when I returned to university to finish my Arts degree. He’s only a handful of years older than I am and one of the benefits of being a mature student is getting to know your profs on another level. I loved being in Bob’s class and was thrilled when he agreed to be my honours thesis advisor. We’ve stayed friends over the years and I have always found our conversations entertaining and hard work in equal measure. (Hard in the sense that Bob is off-the-charts smart and has a vocabulary that keeps mere mortals on their toes.)

Based on Actual Events is Moore’s fifth volume of poetry. I’ve got all his poetry collections, but to be honest he started to lose me a little in 2012 with The Golden Book of Bovinities.

The blurb on the back of Based on Actual Events says

Robert Moore gives us a book-length sequence of sleek, fiercely comic, colloquial poems whose aphoristic storytelling is pegged to nostalgia for sublimity. His project is to find frames of reference for our estrangement from the world.

That may very well be what Bob’s trying to do with these poems, but I didn’t get it. (Geesh, I barely got the blurb!) His earlier poems dealt with relationships and his parents and art and, you know, stuff I could mostly relate to. Based on Actual Events is for wicked-smart people, which generally counts me out. That said, poetry in general is often layered and mysterious and requires fortitude.  However,  if you take Billy Collins’ advice and “press an ear against its hive” or “walk inside the poem’s rooms”, a poem will always reward you.

So, that’s kind of my approach reading this collection. I listen for what I like; I walk around in the bizarre rooms Bob’s constructed. I make my own meaning.

25.

Even under enhanced interrogation the vampire

refused to give us anything. And we tried it all,

shit we didn’t even know we could do and still call

yourself human. Nihilo. Zilch. If anything, his smirk

got smirkier, his ass even wiser. And those fangs!

Growing back each time; pellucid as milk,

alert as metal against skin.

 

So we waited until high noon – both hands reaching for God –

then shoved him out of the van in the Sears parking lot.

It was like you’d lit a gasoline fart. It was like wings

opening inside you.

 

Over before you could swallow. Seen more ash

at the end of a Virginia Slim. “Holy screaming fuckballs,”

sighed the captain, as much to himself as to the assembled,

we who’d done things we couldn’t even share

with ourselves, never mind over breakfast

or lost weekends, in earshot of our televisions,

which knew every lie in the book.

 

Anyone who knows me will know why I liked this poem. 🙂

These poems are ironic, often funny (I think) and use a lot of words I had to look up in a dictionary. Whatever, my vocabulary could use some work.

 

 

The Town That Drowned – Riel Nason

In all our years together, my book club has never been joined by the author of our chosen book. This month, as we met to discuss The Town That Drowned, we were fortunate to have the novel’s author, Riel Nason, with us. Riel and one of the members of my book club have known each other since university, so it made sense for Chrissy to choose this book and to invite Riel to join us while we discussed it.

The Town That Drowned is Riel’s first novel, but she has honed her skills writing a regular column on antiques and collectibles for the Telegraph Journal, is the author of a collection of short stories, some of which have been published, and blogs about quilting here. For the women who gathered for a discussion of the book, it was a real treat to get the inside scoop on the book’s development.

Narrated by 14-year-old Ruby, The Town That Drowned tells the story of what happens to a town when the government decides to build a dam. The narrative of the story is actually based on a true event, as Riel explained at our meeting and on her blog:

“In the late 1960s, before my friends and I were born, the area had been flooded when the Mactaquac Dam was built about 15 miles downstream. As a kid, I thought it was all pretty neat information.  Lots of great trivia. But, now if we fast forward to just a few years ago when I was possessed with the idea that I-Must-Write-A-Novel, I immediately knew that the flooding would be the background event.”

The Town That Drowned is a quiet story. Riel might have even admitted that nothing much happens, but I would disagree. I think Riel actually did a very nice job of capturing rural New Brunswick during the 1960s. My dad grew up just a few clicks further up the river from Riel’s fictional Haventon, in a small town called Perth-Andover and I spent a fair amount of time there as a kid, so I am intimately familiar with towns like that. You know the kind: everyone knows everyone, meaning everyone knows your business and there’s no escape from the town bullies. Ruby observes her neighbours and the events that transpire over the course of a couple of years through remarkably mature eyes.

My favourite character in the novel is Ruby’s younger brother, Percy. Although it’s never overtly stated, Percy has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism. Every time he opens his mouth, he is a delight.

“Our mother says we should give you the message of her love,” he says to Mr. Cole – a much loved neighbour – on the occasion of a picnic he and Ruby share with him.

Percy thrives on structure and order and routine and the thought that his house might be moved is kept a secret from him for as long as possible. Ruby adores him and is embarrassed by him in equal measure. I just adored him.

The Town That Drowned will have special meaning to those readers familiar with the St. John River Valley and those who remember the Mactaquac Dam being built. But even if you aren’t from around here, the story offers up plenty of  treasures: first love, the importance of family, and what it means to have a place to call home.