canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

The Blood Burns Though The Heart Might Break
by Erinn Banting
Thirteenth Tiger Press, 2001

The Good Life
by Brad Cran
Nightwood Edition, 2002

Reviewed by Nathaniel G. Moore

This singular, majestic experience.
This frame that will never house
another network.

So begins “Monarch” a piece whose ambitious voice is coupled with tremendous pathos and lyricism; a great ‘single’ that stands alone a moment in the collection put out by the poetry teamster known as Thirteenth Tiger Press.

“Chivalry is Dead” is an unfortunate flop when compared to other gems and floods of lucidity that eclipse the weaker links. The second half of the last poem (I Have A Friend Who Writes Poetry In The City) is the solid franchise style and venom from which Banting should cull and settle her future demons.

So we slide ourselves through the muddy flux.
The pull between doing and death. We find
ourselves resealed in form-fitting subdivisions.

My poet friend walks slowly up my street.
“Think of the millions of people who are
buried under the mud slide here.”
Petrified subterranean moments.
Martyrs of stagnancy.

‘The Blood Burns Though the Heart Might Break’ sprawls and its range does more to disenchant than engage. This is however, for no other reason because of the collection’s length. Bantings dedication to her voice is inherit just not nearly consistent enough.

R.M Vaughan once wrote “The reason community art is funded is because it is critic proof,” and while this is not the case with Banting, I would suggest that a beefier and more daring collection that would compliment the obvious passion and language which is too often stifled by discursive and sprawling narratives. The poetry community should be one of content over fashion, and the talent is restrained by its limitation in product, not quality. This collection should definitely exist, but it’s too safe, and needs more substance, a substance that would give the reader more to believe in. There are pieces that I would suggest others to believe in, and that the poet’s insights and passions are real and genuine.

And while range and eclectic necessity facilitates a wider palpability for the random reader’s interpretation, a more objective approach with some pieces would give this collection a greater bite.

The Good Life is Vancouver poet and Smoking Lung Press’ boss Brad Crans first full length poetry book, and it excites nearly from start to finish. While the exception of the collection is a strong blend of sensory language and clean narratives, a constant strength is extended to the reader who is taken on an journey of equal parts word lust and memory debunking. I mean so much is shed and spat out with beautiful eulogies one can’t help but become a bit nostalgic. We are connected.

However, there is something temporary that fevers and restrains enjoyment with the constant use of the ‘you voice’ as in ‘Tremors’ (pg. 16)

Walls of wood bend like palm trees in hard wind
as your world shakes itself clean of ingratitude.

And again on the following page in the poem Sunset Behind Palm (pg. 17) we find the second person voice overused with: ‘your mind’ ‘your dreams’ ‘you gather stones to prove you’re alive’

Another troubled phase of the collection comes in the uneven and undeceives ‘Late Night on Saint Laurent and I Don’t Think of My Lover Just Now’ but it seems quite undeniable that Cran’s range eclipses these minor flaws and you-reliance.

In “Today After Rain” (pg. 74) mood and philosophy are contained in a postcard of lush language, hushing us across the minute landscape, scrapping our knees with pleasure.

The service station is broken
And the cars sleep like bodies of beetles
Pinned in line by the careful
hand of an entomologist.

The similitude of each character, object or colour compliments the poem, washing and toning the piece while pushing all the necessary elements of grandeur and delicate observation to our mouths, making it all the more nourishing.

Somewhere this is a collection
worth polishing. A little red mailbox
The corner grocer. Streets and gutter grates.

While it's common to loop similarities in a dual review, I find the differences all the more important and insightful. The fact is Canadian poetry is always changing, getting younger in style and content, and finding new ways to sell and make meaningful its sometimes lowly and under-read world of sensory letters. These two are in it for the long haul.

Nathaniel G. Moore’s reviews and articles have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Echo Weekly, The Danforth Review, Broken Pencil, (League of Canadian Poets) and Dojo Magazine. For more visit Notho Entertainment Group (







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