Paper Reunion: An Anthology of Phoenix:

A Poet’s Workshop (1976 – 1986)

 

Edited by Sharon Berg & Julie McNeill.

Big Pond Rumours Press. 2016

 

Reviewed by Kara Ghobhainn Smith

 

 

Paper Reunion is a rich eye-catching anthology of poems and narratives

from Ontario’s seasoned writers, and well-worth a trip down Ontario’s

literary lane. Big Pond Rumours Press editor, Sharon Berg, of Sarnia,

has assembled a cast of writers out of the well-known Phoenix Work

shop. Berg’s own glittery lines and sexual graveyard of automobiles

evoke Ontario’s James Reaney’s ‘cars with ruby red behinds’: 


“But starlight gathered like silver
across those wasted bodies in the yard.
The cars were our fathers’ dreams,
a harem of submissive curves
in midnight blue or a red dangerous as
 
putting it all into a woman they wanted
on the tarmac, foot to the floor.” (Berg, p. 14)


Envisioning the 1960s men using their unrequited energy to fuel the reconstruction of a ‘midnight blue’ or red car with ‘submissive’ curves, so eloquently captures the trapped lives of the husbands in her lines. Their physical exhaustion used for the re-capture of lost love:


“We have both stepped in and out of our bodies
with our arms crooked for love.” (Berg, p. 15)

Similarly, Marja Jacobs’ ‘Fifty-five socks’ (p.24) is one of several working narratives, and this one, I thought, was particularly appropriate at Christmas, and in this world of global migration. It captures beautifully the incredible resilience of newcomers over poverty. Set in rural war-time Ontario, the ballad details a mother re-knitting, and then selling, her bridal bedspread into 55 socks to sell for wheat and eggs, all that her family must live off of for the Winter months in her new country. This poem alone could be Ontario’s, “Gift of the Magi”.

 

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