canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Lot of My Sister
by Alison Stine
The Kent State University Press, 2001

Reviewed by T. Anders Carson

This chapbook of poetry is an incredible collection. Alison Stine made me shudder in a poem describing a school principal checking to see that everyone was clean. Students were beaten with a switch if they weren’t. She doesn’t describe the beating--only the possibility, the shame and blood rising to her face as she stands naked from the waist for his inspection.

Stine climbs to the emotional threshold, then tumbles down. It seems as if rappelling was what she was looking for, not the peak. Her last lines always find a twist, a turn, the encumbered feeling of a quick yet well-placed punch.

In another poem, “Lot of My Sister,” she meets a prostitute on the street who offers her bread. Instead of turning up her nose, as many would, she sits down and shares bread. She describes the woman and the street.

I asked if she was waiting for a ride.
She said, It’s waiting for me.

In “The Ripper’s Bride,” the last lines are beastly insightful:

Instead they say,
under his blade
in the dark ways,

the women made
no sound.
Of course
not. How

could they know,
like me, they
were being asked
for the answer?

She has gone places in her mind that many of us are too frightened to approach. Her writing takes risks and is successful with conjuring up images that will linger with you.

Stine knows what it takes to describe a shadow. In the poem “Vincent’s Ear,” she describes a deformity. I think it goes beyond the ear. It is almost a universal deformity that she relates. It could be a limp, a twitch or possibly a shake.

Only the side show will take me now,
and the doctor in California.

She is carefully and almost playfully creating worlds so that we might see our own in a new light. Her writing is bold, nakedly surreal, yet believable in a stain of brightness that is truth. A definitive page flipper. And when you finish you just want more.

T. Anders Carson is a poet living in Portland, ON.







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