by Venera Fazio, Howard Freedlander, Joanna Gale, Rhonda Melanson,
Catina Noble, Stella Mazur Preda.
Compiled/ Edited /Layout by Mark Clement, Cover art by Lynn Tait.
Beret Days Press, 2015, 75 pp
Volume four of The Ontario Poetry Society’s EnCompass series showcases six diverse but equally accomplished poets. Everything’s very much in sync in this compelling anthology – the artwork, the layout and the poet’s voices add up to an addictive volume from which you can dip in and out or consume cover to cover (as I did) upon first encounter.
Born in Sicily, Venera Fazio lovingly embraces her roots, her parents and her extended family. Regarding her mother she writes; Mom would never know/how much she was loved,/how depression deceives. She deals unsentimentally with hardship and death in a tribute to her grandmother who was: yearning to join Domenico/with candle in hand/brightening the darkness of the other side. Her poems are intimate, direct: Nonna Venera/is the cautionary namesake I invoke/whenever I am tempted/to strike and a delight to read: My granddaughter tells me what I need to hear./She knows me better than I thought.
A both-feet-firmly-planted-on-the-ground poet, Howard Freedlander’s poetry displays a solid grounding in science, a disdain for the modern scene and a deep, spiritual connection with nature. A wry sense of humour leavens his output – evident in the initial poem of his collection: while I,/in a desperate attempt to save face/continue to decant to an appreciative/albeit empty room. His poetic voice is strongest when he is connecting/ identifying with nature: where life survives by a hair’s breath/and the views of night/are comparable to Hubble/as they hang over a wilderness/that will entice, entrap you/and forever hold you hostage.
Not afraid to change voices in midstream, Joanna Gale embraces not only the everydayness as well as the eternal in her landscape but also flaunts a down-home dialect in a local café: And you can’t help but like them over-the-counter/waitresses coulda’ bin yer Aunt Lil or Edith or even/yer sister Sue … Ordinary people in whom she perceptively perceives the extraordinary in an economy of words: a wicker chair waits/in that new place/you travelled to/alone. At home in a pantoum as well as modern verse where she describes herself as a brittle seed pod: out of control/fenced fields loosed/in back wood lots/it seems/a great breakthrough for me
Rhonda Melanson ‘s strong voice, startling images suggests her strength as a ‘confessional’ poet: In front of you, I drank it all./ I became your sacred cow/that you could admit to owning/and parading shamelessly down narrow streets. Relationships – the good, the bad and, yes, the ugly are examined and nothing, no one is sacred: He is somebody else’s stick boy/walking blue across the tundra/his full lips instantly frozen to/a flagpole of his own making Her poems are bold, fearless and ironic –as when she coolly dismisses Berlin: Making it one of the/Top five places in the/World to get laid with/Bling, a crumbling/Victory for the bucket/ List.
Abuse, love and loss – especially loss – are the dominating themes of Catina Noble’s poetry. Her voice is spare, sure and effective: I panic when/A voice over the intercom// Announces to clean up the mess/With me in aisle four. Minimalism is her forte and she favours shorter works; breaths are taken/eyes open and I search for glue//so I can fix many things. Of course, all is not loss – her poetry evidences a childlike wistfulness: close my eyes, make a wish/and blow the suds away tempered by insightful self-awareness. And hope: Other seasons to follow,/more moments to create/second chances to start over//Daddy and me.
Stella Mazur Preda’s kaleidoscope, each a minutely observed slice of life, dazzle in their diversity and intuitive use of language. To her mother she bluntly states: I foundered in your omniscient wisdom/engulfed in a quagmire of my own misgivings. Another poem realizes: Pity is an unsolicited intruder. Vivid travel poems intensify comprehension: Paths of life mirrored in his face,/trophies of ultimate survival: and a deeper measure of understanding: Mother was at her best/in that crooked kitchen/where walls whispered/sunlight danced with shadows/and the old floor tilted/ downhill.
This is an ambitious anthology that should be right at home on your shelf or, better yet, kept close at hand so you can pick it up and discover something/someone new anywhere and anytime at all. Contact email@example.com for ordering information.