Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Some Talk of Being Human - Laura Farina (A Stuart Ross Book/Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Some Talk of Being Human.  Laura Farina.  A Stuart Ross Book.  Mansfield Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2014.

Of course I like every book I post on Today's book of poetry - that's the entire point.

So how do I tell you when I enjoy something just a bit more than usual?  It's been a while since a book of poetry has made me smile in quite this way.

These witty poems have the dead-on timing of a stand-up comic and the genuine sincerity of a well meant sermon.

Some Talk of Being Human hints at being naive but Farina is only being coy.

Peterborough, Late Spring

The sky is the three chords
you know on the guitar.
Repetitive, rhythmic light.

Under it,
those well-written streets,
sagging like couches
on student porches.

Tangled sheets
contain our sweat.
This is known as evidence.

A record spins and spins.

The shadows we cast
on Hunter Street
lug instruments
in awkward cases.

This day is like performing
CPR with a cold.

I swear there was a shortcut,
but I can't seem to find it.
If we walk home the long way,
will you promise not to talk?


This book is from Mansfield Press's imprint A Stuart Ross Book - and that should come as no surprise.  These poems have some of the same perplexing and spectacular leaps of faith as those of Stuart Ross, no mean feat.

Farina has been a poet I've adored reading since meeting her back in 2007.  This Woman Alphabetical is a Pedlar Press book by Farina from that period, if you can find it you should pick it up.  It is simply marvelous.

But - not quite the gem Some Talk of Being Human turns out to be.

Poem after poem twists your maw into a different sort of smile.  Some of them will be new twists of fate for your face.

Family Reunion

The sandwiches are crustless!
The salads have layers!
Each woman knows by heart
a recipe called Heavenly or Dreamy or Delightful.
Major ingredient: marshmallows.

Uncle Ralph pulls up
in his white Lincoln Continental.
His two tanned legs
wander down from white shorts
to two white socks pulled parallel.
He opens the passenger door to reveal Aunt Barbara
already laughing.

Uncle Harry tells a joke about
a beautiful woman on the streetcar
but we don't get it.
Auntie Marilyn Todd tells us
she changed our mothers' diapers.

A stooped aunt I don't recognize
calls me by the name of my dead grandmother
and for a moment I see
the spaces in the crowd
were also invited.

And then it's darker
and their voices in the dark night
are a memory of the war,
how they saved their liquor ration--
so sure it would end--
held a victory party
on this very spot
sang these very songs
before they settled down
to invent our parents.


This is dead serious whimsy of the best kind.  These poems engage you in a conversation you end up responding to.  You start answering asked questions out loud.

Farina's Some Talk of Being Human is so thoroughly engaging, so sad-sack romantically human, I loved it.  Plain and simple.

Passed it around the office, now all the interns are clamoring for my copy of This Woman Alphabetical, which won the 2006 Archibald Lampman Prize for the best book of poetry by a poet from Ottawa.  It's going to the highest bidder.  They will be allowed to read it  -  in my office  -  after they finish the dishes.

The Waiter Brings Our Order of Hummus

There was good news today
about the future of bangs.

It is not as bad as we'd imagined.

My knee touches
your knee
under the table.

Our eyes meet
over grilled pita wedges.
Crumbs dandruff
from my mouth;
my fingers trace beige lines
on the table that dreams
of being rustic.

When I think of the number of times
I've wished I could draw.

When I think of the number
of sketches of you
I could have sold at craft fairs,
looking out a submarine window
or caught in a moment with a fox.

Do you remember that time we went up a mountain?
Or just after,
that time we came down a mountain?
All those miraculous days, my darling.
All those incredible journeys.


Today's book of poetry enjoyed Some Talk of Being Human as much or more than anything we're read this year.

If I were making a list, this book would be on it.

Laura Farina

Laura Farina's first book of poetry, This Woman Alphabetical (Pedlar Press, 2005), won the Archibald Lampman Award, given to the best poetry book published in Ottawa. She grew up in Ottawa and then gradually made her way west. She now lives in Vancouver.

  -  On This Woman Alphabetical:
"A brisk, engaging read. ... Farina's poems are refreshingly under-done, with an innate sense of the
energy and spontaneity of lyric. ... At her best, Farina plucks the tenuous line between contemplation and irreverence. There is something of Frida Kahlo here: the obsessive image-making: the mediations on personal pain; the surrealist impetus. Or of Georgia O'Keefe, in the poems' deceptively simple clarity."
      - Triny Finlay, Arc


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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