Thursday, August 4, 2016

Shiner - Eva H.D. (Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Shiner.  Eva H.D.  Mansfield Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2016.

Eva H.D. is back and she has brought all her dark charms with her.  Her first book, Rotten Perfect Mouth, stormed through our offices a little more than a year ago (you can read that blog here: ) and tore up everything in sight.  Since we opened the doors for business Today's book of poetry has had over 1,500 new volumes of poetry land on our desk and we liked Rotten Perfect Mouth as much as any of them.

So you can understand why expectations were high when Shiner grumbled through the mail slot.   Lucky for us that Eva H.D. sets some very high standards for herself, there are no mimicking birds here.  Shiner is a completely apt description, these poems smack you up the side of the head whether you like it or not.  We wouldn't be the least surprised if they left a mark.

She even leaves some breadcrumbs, small trails of beauty.

Rocher Perce

Woke up and dawn was
slicing the starboard sky, with
the Rocher Perce to our port side. 

Made apple fritters for breakfast.
The dog curled up on the couch
next to me, nose to hind paws asleep,
torqued like a Mobius strip.
The simple, humming life.

Reading on the Reformation
in the dim glow.
The afternoon threw itself
forward like a jittery sprinter,
pitching and scending into dusk.
Blueberry pie in the oven.

Saw the lights of Rimouski
glitter at sunset like it was
somewhere else.

The riverlight
like a filament of gold
threaded through a young girl's
aging her.

The hold in the rock eyes us
in the night, from afar
while men of freighters
in Quebec City read dirty
flip the luminous
pages that flash like morning
fins to greet us.


Eva H.D. spends considerable time and energy searching out and speculating over the forgiveness game.  These poems are pulled taut and strummed hard by tension even when they strive for a certain type of peace.  The search for tranquility isn't entirely futile but Eva H.D. is as suspicious about horse-piss promises as she is smitten by peaches.

Today's book of poetry really enjoyed Eva H.D.'s riffing on travelling across Canada.  We too love the idea of eating a bacon sandwich in every province.

The thing about Shiner is how complicit Eva H.D. makes the reader feel, she has an uncommon common touch that draws the reader in close.  Cleverly enough H.D. has added an instant connect device to most of these poems, you are inside them and involved before you knew you cared about Toronto, or baseball or wild salmon.

If Today's book of poetry had to distill Eva H.D.'s style, label it, we'd call it "vigorously hopeful despair."  This is a suspicious poet, doubtful and leery of our best intentions, doubtful and leery about her own.  And then along comes optimism.  It's in there like a twist of lemon in your drink.


There was a bottle of malt liquor at
the Legion Hall, the small town
Canadian church,
for small men from little towns
who like lager and history
and three-part harmony and falling
in love

as much as they hate bus rides and
yelling and dog dares and heights.
And falling in love, too,
that noisy, dizzying dog dare.

"We just didn't have enough
time," she said,
which is one way
of saying goodbye,

like pulling the plug
is a way of turning out lights
without touching them.


These poems burn.  Shiner affirms what anyone/everyone who read Perfect Rotten Mouth already knows, Eva H.D. is a poetry assassin.  These poems are killer.

Eva H.D.

Eva H.D. lives and writes in Toronto. She recently won the Montreal International Poetry Prize for her poem “38 Michigans.”

“… the collection Rotten Perfect Mouth is a miraculous calling forth of melancholy, but drenched with dry wit, very Toronto and deeply musical. Poetry find of the year, easily.”
     —John Doyle, The Globe and Mail

“How does Eva H.D. write? Playfully, gamely: She understands that poetry can be—and can do—anything.”
     —George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald

“This poem—“38 Michigans”—is a quirky, intense elegy. It works so well, I think, because it makes fresh again an old and powerful basis of lament: one in which all the contours of ordinary reference and experience are forced into a new shape.”
     —Eavan Boland, judge’s citation on awarding the Montreal International Poetry Prize.

“These poems are so packed with energy and weird precise knowing that you almost don’t notice the cumulative emotional groundswell building… Today’s Book of Poetry and our entire staff could simply not recommend a book any higher than this one. It is instant required reading.”
     —Michael Dennis, Today’s Book of Poetry


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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