Thursday, December 22, 2005

Norman Drive: A University of Ottawa Class Anthology

Norman Drive is the tenth in the series of University of Ottawa Department of English class anthologies began by Friday Circle in 1993, publishing the poetry of graduates of Seymour Mayne’s quasi annual poetry workshops (ENG 3264).

The anthology features the class of 2004/2005: Simon Bradshaw, Rhonda Douglas, Jesse Ferguson, Jeff Fry, Christine Hakim, Teresa Jewell, John Kelly, Nicholas Lea, Jennifer Leap, Seymour Mayne, Wanda O’Connor and Tree Renaud.

Simon Bradshaw’s metro platform is minimalist and invokes a single moment of travellers waiting for the train, through the use of sight and sound. From the ordinary, he constructs a bit of magic: “we are strange acrobats/about to leap.”

In Mom at 50, Bradshaw’s juxtapositions are original and unusual: “the suspicious marigold of stars” and “the snow globing in your brain.” The words are mostly Germanic with a bit of Latin thrown in, highly concrete, with some analysis on what it might be like to be fifty from a young person’s point of view: “the only rushes/at this age/are the dizzy spells.”

Rhonda Douglas uses metaphor in Oats, her mature poem about sowing wild oats and yearning for one’s youth. The poem is straight-forward narrative with fairly simple language.

Love in Late Summer is another in a series of poems Douglas has written about paintings. This one is about Christopher Pratt’s painting of the same name: The poem successfully renders the sights and sounds of late summer and tells a story about what the painting might evoke.

Jesse Fergusons saucy but unexpectedly deep Glengarry Highland Games is a narrative poem, which effectively conjures up the scene of the Games. He avoids cliché successfully by using the verb “to hold” in an original and metaphorical way. There’s an elegant simplicity to this poem, with its specific Scottish jargon mixed with every day language.

Whitetail is an image poem depicting the moment where a deer collides with a vehicle and the nightmares that follow. The language is stark white, mostly monosyllabic with the occasional multi syllable word to represent the deer’s faltering steps and the collision. This is a poem to be read aloud; it’s almost iambic. The ending opens up the poem to the reader’s imagination in a Heart of Darkness kind of way: “he can’t help hearing/the wilderness listen in.”

Nicholas Lea’s travel plans is a visual and minimalist piece that is also ironic: “smoking like it was a cure for cancer.” norman drive, the title track so to speak, is one small moment with crisp diction and strong visuals. at the lookout is also a spare and visually evocative poem.

Seymour Mayne’s word sonnets are minimal, disciplined and provocative pieces. Praise is a spiritual rendering in confined space. Overheard At The Barber is like a maxim, an amusing, yet wistful comment on the encroachment of old age. Reader is an intimate rhetorical question.

Wanda O’Connor’s After Femina is a clever and beautiful piece which adeptly combines the abstract and the concrete, much like Marlatt, in fact: “And the jar keeps you precisely, from wind and fire,/ the flexibilities of love, the comfort of an ocean//and the cleave of its longing.” There’s a well-schooled precision in the vocabulary of this poem.

Tree Renaud’s poems are powerful with strong cadence, diction and imagery. The Windows Were Bare is almost ballad-like in its structure, with an intensity that lingers well after the poem is done.

Norman Drive is well designed by classmate and fellow contributor, Jennifer Leap. I wonder if poet Peter Norman knows there’s a whole drive named after him.

The anthology is available through the on line store:
For other Friday Circle publications, you can visit the Friday Circle site:

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