Set in the seemingly-quiet suburbs of Vancouver, Tanja Bartel's poetry debut, Everyone at This Party(Goose Lane Editions)highlights the lives of people whose everyday is anything but mundane exploring themes of regret, guilt, empathy, fear and failure. Scroll on for two poems from the collection that CBC Books deemed Canadian poetry to watch for in spring 2020.
Everyone at this party is someone’s horrible childbirth story.
We’re either experts or one-trick ponies. Either way, it’s taken our whole life.
Don’t have a favourite cowboy, prefer freedom to the lasso.
Crickets kick up their heels in the fullness of the exploding heat.
We could hurl a boulder into this slough and it would be there after every current occupant on the
planet is dead.
Grass along the banks greens up, yellows down.
Water, the most easily influenced substance, doesn’t show its age.
Fleeting dandelions that never end. Miracle, but we don’t see it that way.
Each new sunrise blinds us and we start over.
Same as we were yesterday. And the day before.
Bitchy in the morning, angry to bed.
After we die, people will say we lit up a room when we walked in.
Current Phobia Three: Gerascophobia
Sprung from the hair salon with a smooth,
back-combed flip, I looked like Betty Draper
in her fat phase. Went in unkempt, came out
kempt. Asked for sexy-messy beach
hair, paid for a docile bob. Everyone
is trying to tone me down. Inwardly I scream.
I conjure charisma, inventory my expired
cosmetics caboodle. Create infected
smouldering eyes. I believe in pipe dreams.
I track advancements in infomercial face creams.
I wear baggy-shouldered blazers, the same
black loafers with various dull skirts.
I know all about healthy eating, on paper. Kale
and cauliflower, good; mini donuts and wieners,
bad. A skinny boy-principal evaluated me once:
stroking his silky chin hairs, he nitpicked
while I bootlicked. For relief I cobbled
together a rhubarb cobbler. I climb out
on the ledge, my resolve derelict;
sometimes I come in for eggs Benedict.
Sleep deprivation has become a thing. Except
in meetings, screenings. Dream of my dead friend,
a little plump in a red pencil skirt, curled up
with a glass of wine. She drinks forever
in my head at night. Perspiring
and coffeed-up, a beige upholstered creep,
I roam the hallways’ ninety-degree angles
in ninety-degree heat. My deodorant is a liar.
Lately, I want nothing as dangerous or deep
as a night of unbroken sleep.
Love bite, now there’s a term I connect with.
Side-swipe, not as much. Current phobias:
allodoxaphobia, fear of opinions.
A class discussion is me talking; yet,
acousticophobia, fear of noise, includes my voice.
Arithmophobia, fear of numerals, is ample
on my bathroom scale. Atelophobia, dread
of imperfection, cowers with atephobia, fear of ruin.
Each morning I wake anxious but cheerful, aware that sleep is death’s rehearsal.
Tanja Bartel holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in numerous venues including Geist, the Antigonish Review, and the American Journal of Medical Genetics. She lives in Pitt Meadows, BC.
Photo credit Stasia Garraway
* * *
Thanks to Tanja for sharing two poems from her debut collection
Everyone at This Party with us, and to Brenda at Brick Books for connecting us! For more poetry samplings,
All Lit Up is produced by the Literary Press Group and LitDistCo. LPG and LitDistCo acknowledge the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council.
All views expressed by bloggers and contributors to the All Lit Up blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of All Lit Up or the Literary Press Group.
All Lit Up acknowledges we are hosted on the lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat. We also recognize the enduring presence of all First Nations, Métis and the Inuit people, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to meet and work on this territory.