Friday, November 18, 2016

If I Were In A Cage I'd Reach Out For You - Adèle Barclay (Nightwood Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
If I Were In A Cage I'd Reach Out For You. 
Adèle Barclay.  Nightwood Editions.  Gibsons, British Columbia.  2016.

If I Were In A Cage I'd Reach Out For You is the sort of title/line you want to write out on a piece of paper and hang it on the wall.  As it turns out - reaching out to you is exactly what Adèle Barclay does in this spanky first book.

Today's book of poetry would be lying if I were to say I could follow Barclay footstep for footstep with any certainty.  If I Were In A Cage I'd Reach Out For You is a curious beauty.  If I stumbled and missed a few turns you're going to have to excuse me.  To quote the electric Adèle Barclay, "I'm drunk, and I love you."

The Latest Summer

I will go into the latest summer
and learn how to bow down
to American heat.

I don't part the humid air
when I move through streets
it wavers for me because of my thirst.

I've done this before
picked figs, tucked cigarettes
into a turquoise pouch.

Sunless bathers adrift in the drought
later or sooner the sky
pulls up a chair

and it's not like you can
ask about the weather anymore
and expect sympathy when

units of time are expanding to include
melancholy. I'm sorry I said
I had done this before.


Adèle Barclay is running barefoot over burning coals and whistling Dixie while she does it.  These poems rollick with ribald tenderness, they fishtail like a drunken driver in a lucid dream. 

What these poems do with astonishing regularity is to spill out lines of such surprising and newly necessary verve that the reader takes an extra breath, a gasp.  Barclay has some sharp tools and uses them.

Barclay seems to have a deep well of two-line knock-out punch moves, she goes magically metaphorical on command to broach time and space.  The reader thinks she is being playful when in fact she is lining us up in her sights.


I'm trying to think what yokes the Pacific Northwest and the Baltics--
witchery, rain, chanterelles and moss.

Today I ate the broth of a chicken with an egg in it.
Yesterday I asked for strength, picked fleas out of the IKEA rug.

Tomorrow I will fry
the last crumbs of my libido in duck fat.

I am offering my enemies a bear
made from carob and my long dead hair.


This morning's read was another spirited rodeo.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, took a particular liking to If I Were In A Cage I'd Reach Out For You and once she got going she wouldn't give up the floor.  We usually take turns, everyone reads a poem and then passes the book on.  Not today, Kathryn was on Barclay's wavelength, dialed completely in.

Adèle Barclay has that rare gift of making something entirely new feel familiar, every door she opens we want to swoon right in.

Cardinal Versus Mutable

Katie, there's a lynx
across the street
or some animal
that is ambiguously
both feline and canine.
It's too dark to tell
and I'm so tired
I can't even curate
a good life
you know about blisters
from skiing
up a mountain
for three days
through avalanche terrain
and I know from dancing
at Red Gate until 3 a.m. --
either way it's good practice
to wash the bloody fitted sheet
before a stranger comes over,
but sometimes
I don't. Sometimes I do
see a world
where our bodies fit,
the depth of it is excruciating.
I said you were a heron
because I met you
on an island,
but now I think you might
be a comet--
a force rather than
a product of nature,
flight as in burning
and destination.
Please tell me the blisters
are worth the salt
I soaked them in, the path
I winced walking home,
the sheets I ruined.


Adèle Barclay's If I Were In A Cage I'd Reach Out For You is a debut we will all remember. These are intelligent, vibrant and exciting poems hard wired with a dark winged angel circling overhead.

Image result for adele barclay photo
Adèle Barclay

Adèle Barclay’s poems have appeared in The Fiddlehead, PRISM international, Matrix, The Pinch and others. Her debut poetry collection, If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You, was shortlisted for the 2015 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. She is the Interviews Editor at The Rusty Toque.

"With a depth of feeling for places and their connecting joys and aches, these are beautifully written poems, vivid as the morning paper, bracing as moonshine."
     - David McGimpsey, author of Asbestos Heights   

  "Dear Sara"
Adèle Barclay
Video courtesy of N Moore



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