Passport. Angela Hibbs. DC Books. New Writer's Series. Montreal, Quebec. 2006.
Today's book of poetry has been out of the office for the last few days attending to family business in Peterborough. Had we known then what we know now we could have dropped in on Angela Hibbs. Peterborough is quickly getting a reputation as a place where poets are setting up shop.
Passport was published ten years ago but the poetry hasn't aged a day. Today's book of poetry is embarrassed to admit that Passport is our introduction to Hibbs, and it has only recently come to our attention.
Passport is one hell of a debut book of poetry. I was totally committed after reading the first poem. The second poem was better than the first, the third poem better than the second. That went on for several sensational pages. This woman can burn.
Hibbs does exactly what I want to see, she grabs you by the scruff of the neck and says "Here, eat this!" It's not arrogance when every damned poem backs it up. This book is a full course meal.
I covet my time.
Arrange the pink pillows
artfully on couch and bed,
paint toenails red,
check spine visibility
in the wall mirror,
stare at the digital time display,
stand on feet
feel the blood
move. I am a Chevette
in a Cadillac body; I
a hotel suite
in a town where I have
an apartment; I
sip vodka through ice.
Nobody impresses me.
I draw straight lines
with magazine spines
to guide me.
There is a lot to be done
The days are not long
enough for all I have
to say to myself.
Hibbs employs a Newfoundland sensibility of humorous certainty as she explores the tension wires on which we suspend our relationships. This is compelling and clever stuff driven by characters that are as bold as brass.
Dear Maria Callas,
With your birth name I invoke you.
Listening to you sing La mamma morta,
the recording sounds
like it always has.
Your mother said she wouldn't
give you the lice off her head.
With a note you could break
all the windows in the hall.
You could throb your heart
at a frequency that would explode mine,
Though it is not.
This morning's read had some serious spirit to it. Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, felt a particular connections to Hibbs and proceeded to run the show. Kathryn gave each poem a quick silent read and then told us which of us was to read that poem. It was an office first and it worked.
We can thank Hibbs for that. Hibbs poems roll off of the page, roll off of your tongue, run roughshod given half a chance.
A discreet incision near the hipbone,
for evisceration, replacing
only the dehydrated heart; they liquefied
the brain with palm wine, poured it out.
Unearthed, a mummy's skin,
My mother announces
cremation is not for her; she speaks
now for a time when she won't.
She says she may need her body
in the afterlife.
I put dibs on her birthstone ring.
When my uncle Thom died
the mortician put so much make-up
on him, he left this life a stranger.
I thought we were in the wrong room,
I wiped some of the paint off
with a Kleenex; he was perfumed.
I must mummify my mother:
touch each organ.
Palm wine to wash the stomach cavity,
aromatic plants to dry,
fill with myrrh or perfumed sawdust. Carefully
replace her heart.
Angela Hibbs first book is a highly polished, fully achieved, emotional corkscrew. These intelligent poems crack the whip.
Since publishing Passport in 2006 Hibbs has published Wanton (Insomniac Press, 2010) and Sin Eater (ARP Books, 2014). Passport is sterling stuff, Today's book of poetry can only imagine the other two are killers.
ABOUT THE AUTHORAngela Hibbs is the author of three poetry collections, Passport (DC Books, 2006) Wanton (Insomniac Press, 2009) and Sin Eater (ARP Books, 2014). She holds a MA creative writing from Concordia University. Her work appeared in the Poetry Is Public Is Poetry installation at the Toronto Reference Library. She was awarded the 2010 Joseph S. Stauffer Prize.
"In this auspicious debut collection, Angela Hibbs writes with tender insight and passionate care. These are poems which incant the sensuous particulars of place and, proceeding with the sensibility
that poetry is always for real, insist upon boring through walls and, then, beneath the skin."
- David McGimpsey
The Hearthside Hearings Present: Angela Hibbs July 2010 pt1
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