Poetry in Motion: The Marvels and Oddities of James Lindsay's Our Inland Sea

December 21, 2015

Watch a funnel cloud pick a fight with a Ferris wheel! Learn how to wrangle yeti! Meet the genius who realized windows are the opposite of mirrors! Like a carnival barker or the emcee at a freak show, James Lindsay’s debut poetry collection calls attention to marvels and oddities. Our Inland Sea brims with fantastical imagery, lush language and palpable energy – a funhouse of a book.

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If you ever dreamed of running away to join the circus, this book is for you. James Lindsay’s debut poetry collection, Our Inland Sea, meanders through a Wonderland-ish world populated with animals in uniform and biologists in bird suits. Where else could Stephen Harper walk you to school, or Gordon Lish take over a poem?

With the keen sense of cadence you’d expect from a poet who also owns a record label, Lindsay turns everyday people, places and things into curios. As he writes in “The Reclaimed Gold Rush Hotel”:

…anywhere can be a playground
if you’re desperate enough
to start calling every sand and gravel lot
with twisted metal and somewhere to sit
a place to play.

So his poems become a playground, sometimes akin to a sprawling, well-kept theme park and sometimes more of the dirt-lot-with-twisted-metal variety, but always with a place to sit – an underlying realism on which to ponder.

Catherine Owen notes “a certain ironic and likely rueful stance” in the text, a fusion of “urban ennui” with “lexical energy” (“The Surreal Quotidien,” Marrow Reviews). Jacob MacArthur Mooney calls this “the tension of the infinitely possible,” arguing that “[Lindsay] can take a line anywhere he wishes, and so his poems become ingenious, fantastical worlds.”

Take, for example, the wryly incisive “Biologists,” in which cranes risk freezing to death for lack of a migratory instinct “Because they were raised/by biologists/in white feather suits/with bird puppets on their hands.” Or the biting undertones of “Snowpocalypse,” with lines like “O Seaworld, my/Seaworld, in Ontario we call you/Marineland and the grape growers feed/the orcas icewine.”

James Lindsay reads "Biologists"


James Lindsay reads "Snowpocalypse"

Like the world encountered through the looking glass, Lindsay’s poems are not always comforting places to be – they can be dark, a bit distorted and even downright chilling – but the pacing of his language keeps us moving through, and always there’s the promise of a return to where we started, changed perhaps, but only for the better. As if to reinforce this sentiment, the collection begins and ends with different poems of the same name, the book’s title, Our Inland Sea.

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James Lindsay is co-owner of Pleasence Records, a post-punk, odd-pop, avant-garde record label. He is a graduate of Simon Fraser University’s writing studio and has worked as a bookseller for more than a decade. He currently lives in Toronto. Our Inland Sea is his first book, published under Wolsak & Wynn’s Buckrider Books imprint in Fall 2015. 

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Thanks a million to Emily at Wolsak & Wynn for putting this post together!


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