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Brick Books - February 24, 2010 - 15 Comments

Spirit Engine

Spirit Engine by John Donlan

Reviewed by Jenna Butler

We all want to be historyless
if that’s not how we say it to ourselves;
nothing we say can touch the forest pond’s
shining, wet edges, mare’s tails,
water lilies, water hyacinths
building energy, black oozy shore.
(“Bushed” 13)

The cover image, all brilliant primary colours and gouts of flame, features a dragster doing a fire burnout. The poems within are gorgeous, deceptively simple homages to the natural world. Seemingly contradicting itself at the outset, John Donlan’s Spirit Engine is a nuanced collection of poems that offers up a wealth of layers to the reader willing to return to it over and over again.


Brick Books - July 07, 2009 - 29 Comments


Cypress by Barbara Klar

Reviewed by Jenna Butler

“I go back and I go back, autumns after summers, a hundred walks arcing. I walk up and down, planting nothing. I lie in my tent at night, listening for ghosts. What little they say I write down” (13). This is where Barbara Klar’s Cypress begins; it is a strong start to a strong third collection. This Foreword, or Forward as Klar calls it, is a slim homage to the ghosts that walk the landscape of her latest book.


Brick Books - May 21, 2009 - 23 Comments

Thin Moon Psalm

Thin Moon Psalm by Sheri Benning

Reviewed by Michelle Miller

Sheri Benning’s 2007 collection Thin Moon Psalm (Brick Books) contains some hauntingly beautiful language. Most of the poems take place in her home of Saskatchewan, a province I have visited for only the briefest time. Her ability to use sensory details to take me there with her is laudable. I should admit that, generally, my favourite poems have little to do with nature and more to do with people, but due to her lovely and lyrical language, I was captivated from very early on.


Brick Books - April 09, 2009 - 46 Comments

Noble Gas, Penny Black

Noble Gas, Penny Black by David O’Meara

Reviewed by Ian LeTourneau

Noble Gas, Penny Black is a very good book. The jacket copy praises David O’Meara as a poet of the personal, but it is when he fuses this personal voice with the public and political that his poetry resonates with emotional honesty, psychological awareness, and a depth of feeling that is rare in contemporary poetry.


Brick Books - March 15, 2009 - 0 Comments


Breaker by Sue Sinclair

Reviewed by Patrick M. Pilarski

In her fourth collection of poetry, Breaker, Sue Sinclair proves she is willing to take on huge themes, and unflinching, “punch [her] hand through / the window to rescue whatever it is that, / trapped inside, haunts the corridors” (“Breaker” 41).  Through the book’s four sections, “Faith,” “Work,” “Leisure,” and “Sleep,” Sinclair shares a deeply personal exploration of the mind and its relationship with numerous, and at times painful, facets of the world. Though it takes a few pages to build up energy and engage the reader, Breaker comes to a powerful conclusion and leaves a trail of memorable poems in its wake.


Brick Books - October 31, 2008 - 5 Comments

When Earth Leaps Up

When Earth Leaps Up by Anne Szumigalski

Reviewed by Lorette C. Luzajic

Browsing through When Earth Leaps Up feels like one of those afternoons spent rifling through mementoes in a dusty attic, sun streaming through cracked windows. But it’s not my attic, and I feel like I’m ferreting out someone else’s secrets, prying open private papers. They are so compelling that I’m unable to put these mesmerizing discoveries down, even as I hear footprints coming up the old stairs.


Brick Books - April 26, 2008 - 5 Comments

Two Hemispheres

Two Hemispheres by Nadine McInnis

Reviewed by Donald Officer

At the Ottawa launch of Two Hemispheres, poet Nadine McInnis explained to a good sized gathering of colleagues, family and admirers that she was generally more satisfied with the visual presentation of her poems than she was with the impact they made at readings. She has written six other books that include short stories and critical work as well as poetry, and need not have worried about the reception she was about to receive as she was evidently among friends. However, her comment was probably not prompted by performance anxiety.  As I listened to her clear, deliberate delivery, I began to sense what she was really driving at. Something seemed to be missing from the oral version although the poems were enunciated with impeccably articulate phrasing. After the review copy arrived, I soon understood more fully what she meant by her remarks and that I had noticed at the reading.


Brick Books - February 19, 2007 - 35 Comments

Ink Monkey

Ink Monkey by Diana Hartog

Reviewed by Jenn Houle

Ink Monkey is Diana Hartog’s first volume of poetry in over 13 years (as indicated on the back jacket), and as one would expect, each word is carefully measured and well-considered.  Obviously in the Imagist tradition (although not Imagism, quite), each piece is cut as precisely as a diamond, and indeed, the collection contains a suite of poems inspired by Japanese prints.


Brick Books - September 21, 2006 - 1 Comment

Anatomy of Keys

Anatomy of Keys by Steven Price

Reviewed by Jason Ranon Uri Rotstien

In poetry, one faces the pervasive claim that everything in a poem is metaphor. The metaphor is the foundation of a poem and anything can be and is fair game as a subject of metaphor—the more unusual or obscure the subject matter the better. But scientists would argue the brain craves or best comprehends concrete pictures: the more abstract the metaphor the less the metaphor can be absorbed, the less meaning conveyed. Metaphor is the science of making clearer through enlargement of perspective, but also of simplification or removal of boundaries between unlike objects for a common likeness. Yet, there is a limit to the number and stretch of metaphors. It can never become a contest to see who can build the most convoluted and highest tower. The rule that governs the appropriateness of metaphor: whenever great clarity is desired. Steven Price, a talented young poet from British Columbia, confronts the limits of metaphor in Anatomy of Keys, a book that is suffused with metaphor, often oversaturating and overdetermining the poems with meaning.


Brick Books - July 19, 2006 - 0 Comments

Jaguar Rain: The Margaret Mee Poems

Jaguar Rain: The Margaret Mee Poems by Jan Conn

Reviewed by Jenna Butler

Jaguar Rain: The Margaret Mee Poems is a sensual feast for the image-starved reader. Poet Jan Conn realizes the lush landscape of Brazil in vivid detail through the eyes of artist Margaret Mee, imbuing the poems with a vivid tapestry of scent, sound and colour. At the same time, Conn’s work is subtly underwritten by an awareness of the volatile nature of the landscape and of the painter/poet’s place in it.


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