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April 17, 2010

Short Cuts: Poetry by Dani Couture and Laisha Rosnau

If book design was the best thing about Dani Couture’s first collection Good Meat, this would still be a collection worth reading, and happily, the poetry is even better than it looks. Couture’s collection has an unabashedly carnivorous theme– butchers, hunters, pumping hearts, frying bacon, fleshy girls, beef on a platter, and an exploding whale. Gaping wounds, gutted fish, Taiwanese mystery meat and the powers of e. coli. Couture is working with concrete, fundamental matter that refers back to home, to nostalgia, to childhood and stories from the past, “lessons learned from the country”. Her work is not raw (which I use here not as a pun, but raw is a reflex when discussing gutsy work like this) as much as medium rare– these poems are sculpted, worked-on, crafted. The imagery is as sharp as the knives that flash through them. “my ordinary words fall/ around my feet like tired poets/ tumbling from open windows.” “she says good meat comes/ from the sky– pulled down with lead/ shot aimed just right”

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Laisha Rosnau’s wonderful second collection Lousy Explorers takes as its epigraph the final stanza of Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “Dark Pines Under Water”: “But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper/ And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper/In an elementary world;/There is something down there and you want it told.” Her poems are about women who are sinking, who have left one place for another, who have embarked upon new journeys and new lives in ways that are subtle or otherwise. The 1970s suburban mother who “sent a few things flying in the kitchen”; the girl who leaves at eighteen, “foam mattress tied with rope, box of books”; girls on the frontiers of suburban childhood– creeks, the clotheslines, and hedgerows; the woman who loses her husband after sixty-years of marriage; women turning into wives, going from one place to another, and the things they take with them. Turning into mothers too, burgeoning life beneath the surface, and this is connected to nature as well in ways that are affirming and alarming (“Winter Driving, Third Trimester”). The places these women go to in their minds: “Lousy explorers, we make a mess/ of things, strip and exploit, squint blindly at stars”. And the amazing ways that they move forward all the same.

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Dani Couture reads from her new collection Sweet at Seen Reading.

Laisha Rosnau’s Lousy Explorers shortlisted for Pat Lowther Memorial Award.

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