canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

A Different Shred of Skin
by T. Anders Carson.
Photographs  by  Michael B.
Undead Poets Press (2000). 

Reviewed by Joanna M. Weston

Michael B.'s photographs provide the focus for this book of poetry. Their rich content comes from the variety of techniques that he uses: stark in-focus subjects such as the bucket, boots, purse resting on steps (for the poem "Doll House"); blurred images such as the head of a statue (for the poem "Bird in a plastic bag").  He is equally at home with portraiture and still-life and gives definite cohesion to this otherwise dissonant book.     

Carson's poetry is jam-packed with disparate imagery. Poems such as "Understanding sorrow" are just a list:     

It rolls a car in a ditch.
It misses flights and loses luggage.
It reverses cars and parks tractor trailers.
It knows how much a tank holds.
It flies to freedom under an indigo sun.
It remembers a placed 'I love you'
under a cracked McDonald's sign.
"A Tear for a suffering mother," "Foraging Floridians" and others have the same tendency, which is not to say that images are repeated: Carson has a rich store to draw on from his travels.     

There are moments when Carson opens an image and explores it slightly, as in "Welsh Grave" ... "On a still March evening,/ birds sail their winter song/ plaguing silence./ ... "  etc.  But he seems at a loss as to how to explore his feelings and thoughts in depth.     

A good editor would correct his idiosyncratic use, and non-use, of commas and apostrophes:  "strokes of anxiety and envy/ lift the seers sights", "a heroes'  homecoming" etc. Said editor would also be well-advised to proof-read for grammatical errors, such as "those two constables/ that have brought in ...", or "When one sells their own children".

The occasions when Carson's language match his desire for expression are rich and rewarding:

Children board in haste.
They run madly for the back
as this is the sanctuary
of eternal cool.
They look down on him,
a bus ticket collector,
and heckle him with
prodding looks and edgy faces. /...

Here, in "Bus Ticket Collector," we know he has observed his peers and drawn conclusions.

He uses alliteration frequently and effectively, but needs to curb his propensity for piled images, to explore and expand one or two in each poem. In this way he might achieve a personal harmony.  There are flashes of lucidity which give hope for the future of this emerging poet. The shortest poem, "Doll House," exhibits the most control: its brevity eliminates confusion and Michael B.'s excellent accompanying photograph gives appropriate focus.

Joanna M. Weston  lives in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.






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ISSN 1494-6114. 


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