Reviews

In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning…

JILL MANDRAKE

From time to time this reviewer comes across a new poetry collection that stands out amongst the others. In recent months, that collection has been Kevin Shaw’s Smaller Hours (Goose Lane). The author had me hooked with the very first poem, “Clocked,” in which he manages in eight lines to convey a child’s grief over the untimely loss of two grandfathers. The finale is a pair of ghostly lines: “I believed watches had faces to remind us of corpses. / I confused grandfather clocks for the men in their caskets.” This slim volume contains forty-two poems, and not one is a throwaway. Shaw’s style of poetry can best be described in a quote about minimalist writing by the late master, Raymond Carver: “Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Get on.” There is a sense of urgency in the majority of these poems, and also a cozy sense of place: Shaw speaks of his hometown, London, Ontario, with impassioned touches. If you’ve ever stayed in London, you’ll immediately recognize the settings of “After Hours in Eldon House,” “Victoria Park” and “After Jack Chambers’s 401 Towards London No. 1.” One of the few longer poems in Smaller Hours, and one of the best, is “Discretion.” It’s written as though you’re touring through the empty feelings associated with personal ads or casual encounters. Such feelings are presented in a series of one-liners that cleverly hang together. I felt as though this poem could have been written by one of our better one-liner comedians—Steven Wright, or Jonathan Katz—but if Wright or Katz chose poetry over stand-up comedy.

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JILL MANDRAKE

Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits. https://hido.bandcamp.com/album/the-neti-pot

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