By turns tender and rough-hewn, and always structurally inventive, the poems in Wendy McGrath's new collection show a writer reaching the height of her creative powers.
Whether evoking the vulgar give-and-take of a men's poker night, fleeting moments of connection between mothers and sons, afternoons spent in overgrown backyard gardens, or wondrous childhood trips to the drive-in, McGrath's feel for the bygone details of working-class life is uncanny. The book's highlight is the playful poetic sequence that gives the book its title, the product of a more-than-decade-long improvisational collaboration with printmaker Walter Jule, a series of not-quite-mirror poems whose meanings reflect on each other in kaleidoscopic ways.
Wendy McGrath's most recent novel Broke City is the final book in her Santa Rosa Trilogy. Previous novels in the series are Santa Rosa and North East. Her most recent book of poetry, A Revision of Forward, was released in Fall 2015. McGrath works in multiple genres. BOX (CD) 2017 is an adaptation of her long poem into spoken word/experimental jazz/noise by QUARTO & SOUND. MOVEMENT 1 from that CD was nominated for a 2018 Edmonton Music Award (Jazz Recording of the Year). She recently completed a collaborative manuscript of poems inspired by the photography of Danny Miles, drummer for July Talk and Tongue Helmet. Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction has been widely published. McGrath lives in Edmonton, Alberta, on Treaty 6 Territory.
at intermission we looked out the open windows of our Galaxie 500
my mother pointed the tip of her cigarette toward the night and said:
there's the big dipper there's the little dipper they're constellations
I looked hard but couldn't see them
if you join the dots you can make them out
I followed the red of her cigarette and it was true
the stars made themselves into pictures
against the black screen of the sky
the movie ended
we drove away from the drive-in on the outskirts of the city
in a trail of tail-lights and tips of cigarettes headlights and stars
our new green car moving through the night crunching gravel
we were a constellation and we would be famous one day
like movie stars in our Galaxie 500
Praise for A Revision of Forward:
Walter Jule's visual images are aids to meditation, communicating on an intuitive level that which cannot be expressed in words. In them we experience in suspended time the knife's edge between creation and destruction."
~ Jennifer Dickson, C.M
"Wendy McGrath shows how a poetic novelty, the mirror poem, can become an important new form. Hamlet spoke of holding the mirror up to nature. McGrath holds the mirror up to art, but she also tells us about the nature of desire and separation, about truth and lies."
~ Bert Almon, author of A Ghost in Waterloo Station
"[f]ragmentary and experimental, impressionistic daguerrotypes of everyday life."
~ Bruce Cinnamon, VUE Weekly
"Its stanzas experiment with the visual aspect of text, spreading out across largely blank pages with their own quiet artfulness."
~ Brent Wittmeier, Edmonton Journal
"She has given substance top billing, and this collection is rich with detail, honing in on the most delicate, intangible moments and weaving in the raw, often conflicting beauty of city and nature, creating whole new textures with the experiences exposed within."
~ Quill & Quire