Siren. Kateri Lanthier. Signal Editions. Vehicule Press. Montreal, Quebec. 2017.
Kateri Lanthier isn't going to give up anything easily in Siren. Lanthier's tight inner monologues, confessionals and testimonials are so laden with images and metaphors that take up instant residence in your brain you feel you've been poetry hammered.
Kateri is a full speed poet, no meandering allowed. One minute you're a grand piano and the next a Formula One engine. Lanthier finds a way so that "coral has osteoporosis" and "The satellite dish and the satellite must weep for their decay." Lanthier ties these disparate threads together into an information overload, poems ripe with jaw drop.
I was the waif in the snowbank of the banquet hall parking lot.
A voluptuous stray. A bravura drunk. My thoughts encrypted in sugar.
Chiming through my rain-streaked gaze, the hues of this week's cocktail:Curaçao blues, maraschino rage, olive, lime cordial, not bitter.
Unplugged from the folk circuit, unhinged by your grin.
When the heat deigns to return, the extremities sing pain.
The perimeter keeps expanding. Shots ricochet round the arch.
Catch me, catch me, if you must! Back me into the Earth's crust.
I clawed you from the rock and now you glisten on my finger.
In the marble at your temples, I can trace the throb of doubt.
All night the blind truck-river-road courses past my house.
Sirens swim the butterfly to comfort each shipwreck.
Today's book of poetry had Milo, our head tech, fetch Lanthier's first book, Reporting From Night (Iguana Books, 2011), out of the stacks for our morning reading. Witty and sensual, it says so on the cover. What Today's book of poetry remembers is that Lanthier's first book had a warm tenderness.
Try this one:
I am afflicted by tulipomania,
and an attention headache.
I am at least as confused
as the raccoon drinking
ice water on our deck
in the mid-day sun.
Imperfect moments perfectly caught in time. That's a slick skill. But Lanthier is after bigger game with Siren, she's stretching bigger muscles. Today's book of poetry thoroughly enjoyed Reporting From Night but Siren is a whole new ball game.
Lanthier has been doing some serious reading since the last time out and it shows. Today's book of poetry has nothing but time for poets who love and respect other poets and Lanthier pays constant tribute with her own particular inventive instrument.
The ice in the field has its game face on. That wind will toy with your feelings.
May I recommend revenge, served chilled in silence and slow time?
The toy lies upturned in the bin, wheels stilled or legs askew.
As soon as one kid palms it, the others whine in chorus.
So it is with the redhead at the bar, the blonde on your roommate's bed.
I've jammed your signal with sticky fingers: remote control's over and out.
I thought I was writing love poems. Turns out, I was writing to Mars.
"Dear distant red-faced planet! How highly ironic you are."
How artless, all that sweet talk while you twisted the pocket knife.
Meretricious. A miniature elephant carved in poachers' ivory.
As soon as a child is handed a toy, he tears off the wrapper and feasts.
But then, from the corner of the room, the empty box works its magic.
Cold and perfect, the toys in the window; the smears on the glass are where art lies.
When your abacus is missing a bead, you learn so much more about math.
Our morning read was held in considerably more comfort as we have added another reading chair to the office furniture courtesy of our friends Jeff and Tina at Vanier Moderns. Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, appears to have claimed it as her own, already has a stack of books beside the chair, marking her territory. Kathryn led the charge this morning for the readings and then put both of Lanthier's titles, Siren and Reporting From Night on her new pile, labelled ever so carefully in Kathryn's beautiful hand with red and yellow marker and it says: "TOUCH + DIE!!"
Today's book of poetry thinks Lanthier would appreciate Kathryn's strong independent attitude and charm. Kathryn pointed out Lanthier's use of the Ghazal and it's good that she did. Today's book of poetry wouldn't know a ghazal from a gazelle but we know when we like a poem. For Today's book of poetry Kateri Lanthier's Siren worked its own particular spell on this reader. There's a kind of "compelling melancholy" in Lanthier's poetry.
What Washes Off, What Sticks
The grey-clothed day unsheathes to pink. Tickles the horizon.
Nightfall on site. I rub the jaw of the daffodil-dinosaur digger.
Light makes its last, weak argument. Excuses itself for the night.
No more hearsing and rehearsing. One false note: colony collapse.
Your lack of inflection troubles me. You must seize a ghost by the wrist.
Is this obsession, addiction, habit or an unscratchable itch?
We need new earth, dirt bags! They're sandbagged up at the mall.
Sweet soil arrived from the countryside. Got trashed in the parkette.
The ransom note in tenor clef of nosebleed on the pavement.
The cursive curse of a love note pissed in pale ale on the snow.
Strike the set. The dream mill's strapped to a dead-pan flatbed trailer.
The coldest day in decades and the sky is newborn blue.
You scrub at the stain while marvelling at what washes off, what sticks.
A missed miscarriage. The heartbeat that skipped town but never left.
With Siren Kateri Lanthier firmly stakes her ground as a poet to be dealt with. This is confident, smart poetry that surprises the reader with a "seductive power."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kateri Lanthier's work has appeared in numerous journals, including Green Mountains Review, Hazlitt and Best Canadian Poetry 2014. She was awarded the 2013 Walrus Poetry Prize. Her first book of poems is Reporting from Night (Iguana, 2011). She lives in Toronto with her family.
"In Siren, Kateri Lanthier puts contemporary culture on blast. Playful, kaleidoscopic, and full of unexpected connections, her ghazals "think at the top of their lungs"-- boldly exploiting the Persian form's compressed energy. Plug-in and prepare to be "pistil-whipped."
- Jim Johnstone, author of Dog Ear
"Every one of these dazzling poems is crammed with wildly memorable images and expressions. With her whip-smart couplets and snappy lines, Lanthier offers a highly original and witty perspective on the world."
- Jane Yeh, author of The Ninjas
Reading at the Tree Reading Series, September 12, 2017
Video: Tree Reading Series
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