Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway

By (author): Alexandra Oliver

In Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway, Alexandra Oliver zooms in on the inertias, anxieties, comedies, cruelties, and epiphanies of domestic life:

They all had names like Jennifer or Lynne
or Katherine; they all had bone-blonde hair,
that wet, fl at cut with bangs. They pulled your chair
from underneath you, shoved their small fists in
your face. Too soon, you knew it would begin,
those minkish teeth were dancing everywhere,
the Bacchic taunts, the Herculean dare,
their soccer cleats against your porcine shin,
that laugh, which sounded like a hundred birds
escaping from the gunshot through the reeds –
and now you have to face it all again:
the joyful freckled faces lost for words
in supermarkets, as those red hands squeeze
your own. It’s been so long! They say. Amen.

Oliver’s poems, which she describes as “text-based home movies,” unveil a cinematic vision of suburbia at once comical and poignant: framed to renew our curiosity in the mundane and pressing rhyme and metre to their utmost, Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway is a five-star performance from Canada’s new formalist sensation.

“Alexandra Oliver has many arrows in her quiver – all of them sharpened to a fine point. In satirical work like “The Classics Lesson,” she is mordantly funny. Yet she can also treat her subjects quietly and with touching understatement, as in “Chinese Food with Gavra, Aged Three.” Ms. Oliver is, moreover, technically resourceful in the best sense. For example, in “Doug Hill” the verbal repetitions of the pantoum form perfectly suit the obsessive voice of the romantically disappointed protagonist. This is an excellent and entertaining collection.” – Timothy Steele

“It is sometimes argued that our disjunctive times need to be mirrored by disjunctive forms: only aesthetic disorder can respond to our experience. Such a simplicity is disproven by Alexandra Oliver’s Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway, in which disjunctions of many kinds (such as the one in her title) are brought to order by the poet’s refining passion and corrosive wit. Here are brilliantly contemporary poems in traditional forms, the work of a stunning new voice.” – Charles Martin

“Alexandra Oliver is in full command of a saber wit and impeccable ear. With these she tackles nothing less than the unsettling hazards, absurd encounters, and oddball ironies of our modern predicament to make poems that bite and entertain. That they are also by turns tender, sad, and rueful speaks not only to her range but to the underlying intensity of feeling. For Oliver’s considerable formal skills are always employed to prod and direct poetry’s energies to keep pace with the contemporary world. Lucky the reader along for the ride.” – Jeanne Marie Beaumont, author of The Burning of Three Fires and Curious Conduct


Alexandra Oliver

Since emerging onto the Vancouver poetry scene in 1992 and being named one of the Top Ten Young Artists of the year by The Vancouver Sun, Alexandra Oliver has gone on to receive two Pushcart Prize nominations, as well as a CBC Literary Award nomination. She has performed her work at Lollapalooza, The National Poetry Slam, the CBC Radio National Poetry Face-Off, the Bowery Poetry Club, the Spectacular Obsessions Fellini Retrospective at the Bell TIFF Lightbox and the Italian Contemporary Film Festival in Toronto. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and publications worldwide, including Orbis Rhyme International, Nexus, The Atlanta Review, The New Guard, Light Quarterly, Future Cycle Poetry, The Raintown Review, and The Vancouver Sun. Her first book, Where the English Housewife Shines (Tin Press, London, UK) was released in April, 2007. She is also co-editing (with Annie Finch) an anthology of metrical poetry. Alexandra divides her time between Toronto, Canada, and Glasgow, Scotland.


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64 Pages
8.24in * 5.25in * .24in


September 10, 2013





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POETRY / Canadian

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