amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lift by Sandra Ridley




Last night’s reading upstairs at the Carleton Tavern featuring Sandra Ridley, Marcus McCann and Sachiko Murakami had an excellent turnout. Marcus read from a few different chapbooks both forthcoming and recently released. It’s always a pleasure to hear his work. I’ve had the fortune of being in a workshop with Marcus for a number of months now. Sachiko, who is a Vancouver writer read from her Talonbooks poetry collection The Invisibility Exhibit. It is her first book.

The highlight of the evening for me was Sandra’s fine reading of what i believe is her first chapbook, Lift: Ghazals for C., published in a limited edition of 75 copies by Jack Pine Press. The beautifully made chapbook contains linocut and block prints by Eric Slankis, According to the site "The cover is a hand-printed front-to-back linocut print on Arches Aquarelle paper, protected by Mylar sheath. The book is hand-stitched with bees-waxed archival linen thread, and contains three original hand-printed block prints, with text printed on Canson Special Effects paper." Aside from its physical beauty, the chapbook, which consists of 12 ghazals for C., is a well-written sequence. Apparently it is an excerpt from a book-length manuscript, which won the 2008 Alfred G. Bailey Prize. In bios, Sandra always refers to herself as a Saskatchewan writer living in Ottawa. This collection, as audience member Mark Schaan said last night, is very Prairie. it has a Prairie feel to it, not just from the stark cover illustration by Slankis of a house, framed in black night. the poems themselves are stark as the prairie, a clapboard house, chokecherries, fireweed. nature is weaved thru the memories of a child that didn’t live but is part of a family’s history, even though her photographs have been taken out of the album. the poems put the photos back in the album, so to speak.

what I particularly like about these ghazals is their compactness or minimalism; the use ghazal couplets is a restrained form that works effectively to represent the understated tone, grief for a deceased child, Carolyn, to whom these ghazals are dedicated. we are told in the endnote that Carolyn died in 1958, two weeks before her second birthday.

i.

As a needle slides, saline drips
& white cells multiply out of control.

Bone-seekers hide in marrow: in tibia,
in femur. Your bruise is wounded blood.

X-rays are pictures & smiles are expected.
Comfort, a thin blanket woven with lead.

We ask the Fates to respond & they do
with nothing but dread for our questions.

What’s a sweet girl like you doing here?
Dear C., promise me that you’ll be good.

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