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Katzenjammer-Review by Josie Andrews
When asked by Catina Noble to write a review of her new poetry collection, I was honoured. Katzenjammer intrigued me from the start with its foreign title. Little did I know was that the book fit in really well with my world view of life and poetry, of how everything broken was once whole, and how through sheer exposure, it will be torn at the seams again, only to be rehashed as silt. It has indeed been a delightful read, with its inviting, friendly font and format, a book with sparkling, refreshing metaphors, brimming with poetic zest and humanity. I highly recommend it as essential reading, especially in view of our contemporary ethos of nihilism and irony plaguing most new poetry. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I had to look up the meaning of the title, as I had never heard the word katzenjammer before. My Google search led me to the comic strip Katzenjammer Kids from the 1860’s, by German author Wilhelm Busch, one of the first and most popular comic book stories in American history. In that particular series, the word katzenjammer illustrated the theme of survival in spite of hardship and loss. Even after many struggles and destructive pranks, the characters thrived. In its German roots, katzenjammer literally translates to the wailing of cats, but is more often used as an idiomatic expression to convey contrition after a failed endeavour, with the added and layered meaning of a hangover. Borrowed by a Norwegian musical group as their name, Katzenjammer, similarly ties back to the concept of a cat’s lament, as well as that particular sound of dissonance a musical group or orchestra makes while it’s setting up to start a performance.
Catina Noble’s collection Katzenjammer flawlessly stitches back all of the above conceptualizations from lament, to redemption over grief and loss, as well as to the pulling together of disparate notes in order to create a harmonious symphony. Catina’s (Cat’s) jammer delves into memories of the past and the losses it houses. It is a concise poetic take on life, love, family, friendship, memory, loss, grief, and a woman’s resilience through the creation of art and writing. Catina Noble’s new collection of poetry is not in the least a cry of sorrow, however, as it doesn’t dwell on sentimentalism. It is a canvas of variegated snippets of moments, encapsulated in clear cut metaphors, telling of things that did indeed transpire at some point, but under the poet’s pen are transmuted into gems.
In A Photograph, the poet randomly selects a small photo lurking behind some larger ones from family pictures strewn across the kitchen table, and she reaches to get a closer look at the intrigue of family secrets and links to unknown loves. Who is this man dressed? Who is he that stands in front of the teepee? Is he related to me? She asks, wondering how this unknown bit of the past could tie in with her life. This is the binding force of creation after all, the unifying field, and from this we can journey together. These poems are metaphorical jaunts into life’s mysteries. Every day is indeed, a new journey into the unknown. The poet takes with her the memories of the past, yet centres herself in a stoic grounding to the present. Not knowing what the future holds, she chooses to focus on breathing in the moment, accepting everything that has happened before, for what it is and for the gifts it brings, while continuing on accepting every broken bit that comes her way, as a sacred piece of the whole. In Four Leaf Clover, we discover that the poet’s lucky charms are her children, each with their own unique gift. Also in A Time for Growth, the poet adds water to the soil of her world, and patiently waits, until the time is right and the transformed seed becomes a large flower. In the poem Cocktail Hour, we find ourselves in a clinic’s waiting room, waiting for a remedy, a referral, antibiotics or another pill that can appease our emotional, physical and abstract pain. This pain that causes suffering as we see in Tissues, a girl’s best friends, leads us to discover buried secrets, the last minute we shared before the body disappeared inside a hole in the ground. Also in Amigas, friendship can be like a double edged sword. In the light, it glitters, but if you turn off the lights, without thinking, it can slice deep. We are boxed in, a distance is required or it will shatter like a hammer to glass. In the poem Petard, years of laughter, tears and celebrations are wiped away without words of regret. Night after night, no words express themselves. Nothing but silence appears and then, a soft whisper emerges from within to say goodbye.
Reading Catina Noble’s Katzenjammer, I felt a kindredness with the poems and with the poet. This is poetry we can all relate to, words that hone in on the essence of the human heart. Beyond time and space, beyond the undecipherable, we can all connect through the collective unconscious of our common archetypes. Deeper than this however, is Catina Noble’s firm grip on survival, positivity and an eye to the future. Through her aesthetic, the world fills with whimsy and a childlike wonder that helps both poet and reader to continue on through bad weather. In Pink Rain Boots we read:
No matter what happens in life, redemption dwells in the power of home, love and family. In the poem Promises to Keep, it’s two am and an assignment is due in 9 hours. The poet is sick with the flu. Popsicles are scarce and tissues strewn around the room. The coffee maker is on strike and it’s 4 hours till morning.
Giving up is not an option. Life is redeemed by standing still in the moment, and cherishing the beauty all around us, in spite of difficult moments, and passing it on to others through our art. Indeed, this poet is sure to leave her trademark wherever she goes with the gift of her beautiful writing. It is with all my love for poetry and kinship that I write this commentary about Catina Noble’s new collection Katzenjammer. It is a book that you will want to read again and again. May the muses and the literary community look as favourably upon it, as I did, as it is indeed a well crafted book of writing, from the voice of a wonderful Canadian poet, surely on her way to much continued success.