Sunday, September 28, 2014

Canoodlers - Andrea Bennett (Nightwood Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Canoodlers.  Andrea Bennett. Nightwood Editions.  Gibsons, B.C.  2014.

Canoodlers really is a charming book of poetry.  Andrea Bennett has debuted with a collection that is both entirely whimsical and completely down to earth.

And what a consistent read.  Poem after poem like target practice for an ace shot.  Bang.  Bang.
Bang.  Once Bennet sets them up - they fall like dominoes.

There's a story

and it happens when I am twelve. There's the back seat of a car, where
my best friend Jane is sitting -- I can see her in the rearview. Outside
it's a zoo, according to my mum. Rolling through downtown Ham-
ilton, she says, Some of these people truly belong in cages. She points
out the driver's side window, flicker her fingers at a woman walking,
Wouldja look at that, she says, and so I look -- crunchy blonde hair,
crop top, too-short cut-offs.

Then I say one of those things that emerges from your mouth like a
just-born giraffe learning to walk immediately on whatever legs it's
got. It's just a hop and skip, I say to my mum, between you and her.

In the rearview, a hyena. To my left, a lioness stalking, deciding if
now is the time to pounce. That's the thing, I say to myself. The thing
about cages. I get it now.


It's not that Bennett is harsh, but she leaves very little meat on the bone when she focuses her considerable talents on a hungry idea.  These poems are scalpel sharp.

Andrea Bennett's Canoodlers is so much fun to read it is easy to forget how serious Bennet is.  Or, better yet, the reader is lulled into tender anticipation before Bennett slides in the culling knife.

If I had a beak,

we'd have a neighbourhood. A roost, a rookery in the east; in the
     west, this block, these streets, curbs, runways of crab or turf.

If I had feathers, I wouldn't need a haircut. If I had feathers, I'd bathe
     in the unseeded dust.

If the water got low, I'd have a rock pile. If I had a beak, I wouldn't
     need hands.

If I had a gullet, I'd grind that.

If I had a worm, its meat would be plush as sausage. If I had a
     problem, I'd pluck its eyes out.

If you had a wire, it'd be my perch. If you had a tree, it'd be my perch.
     A porch? An eave? A roof, a parking sign, a storage pod. Mine.

If you took this house, I'd join you. If the people got too comfortable,
     we'd dive-bomb their skylights. If they got a dog, we'd land on
     its back.

If you were a crow, I'd be a crow too. And then, when we got
     together, it'd be murder.


Bennett has a great sense of humour throughout Canoodlers but it is never at the expense of the reader.  This is considered work without an ounce of presumption.

Of course I like all the books I write about here at Today's book of poetry, but rarely like all the poems.  This books comes as close as any to hitting that rare grand-slam.


happens when a solitary child builds a snow fort in his front yard. At
first there is excitement. All of the snow from the yard can be mobil-
ized without guilt. The months ahead are pack ice, firn, promises; no
one thinks about grass.

Christmas gets built closest to the street, where everyone can see and
be seen, whether they are walking a dog or parking a car or lighting
a menorah. After building Christmas, though, the child must crawl
inside of it.

Doubts are like graves, out of sight in a snow fort. The child might
remember an urban legend: a boy hiding in leaves on his own lawn,
unseen, found unwittingly by his father's lawnmower.


Canoodlers is a book filled with joyous menace and I enjoyed it as much as ANY other book of poetry I've read this year.  Pretty much a consensus around the office.  Andrea Bennett arrives on the Canadian poetry scene fully formed and with great promise.

Watch for Canooders when the awards lists start to be announced.

It will be there somewhere.

Andrea Bennett

Andrea Bennet's writing has appeared in several literary journals and magazines across North America; her poetry has been anthologized in books from McGraw-Hill Ryerson and Ooligan Press. In 2012, she received a National Magazine Awards honourable mention in the Politics and Public Interest category. She is a contributing editor at Geist, and a former editor at Adbusters, This magazine and PRISM international. Originally from Hamilton, andrea now lives in Vancouver with her partner, Will. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s MFA program in Creative Writing.

ca'noodlers n  Oodles of ooze and flesh-smack, the nonstop smooching of juicy words, a Google-map-worthy gaggle of wannabe-lovers, wannabe-unfriends (everywhere on the girlfriend-boyfriend spectrum disorder!). From the "House of What Repute" to "Frank O'Hara's family secrets," andrea bennett's delectable poems "reach out and touch glistening lips, bellies full to bursting."
     Sylvia Legris

Canoodlers is an astonishing accomplishment not so much for a debut book but for any book. bennett's voice, her quality of mind, are extraordinary -- completely individual, hugely resonant. These shoot-from-the-hip poems carry an absolute authenticity and honesty. bennett is able to address human emotion in a language and a manner that is steady, entirely level, considered and frank. Nobody else does this. She has, in this book, created a new place for the expression of emotion, one that is entirely credible. A thrilling new voice in poetry.
     Rhea Tregebov

andrea bennett's Canoodlers is a charmer of a debut collection. There is an impressive authenticity and clarity of voice in these poems. They are chock-full of shrewd interrogations of the cultural, familial and societal. bennett often focuses on the small moment and through shrewd and strange acts of language, she discloses secret widsom. These poems are kisses, caresses.
     Jon Paul Fiorentino


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