Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Emily Valentine Poems - Zoe Whittall (Invisible Publishing)

Today's book of poetry:
The Emily Valentine Poems.  Zoe Whittall.  Invisible Publishing.  Halifax & Picton, Nova Scotia.  2006/2016.

10th Anniversary Edition 

The Emily Valentine Poems cover

Zoe Whittall first published The Emily Valentine poems in 2006.  Today's book of poetry somehow missed it back in the day but is delighted to have our muggy little paws on this 2016 reprint. 

Whittall likes the prose poem and she likes lists, well, as it happens, Today's book of poetry is a big fan of both and Whittall does not disappoint.  The Emily Valentine poems just cut right to it.

Gender and desire get thrown around with alacrity, Whittall never misses a beat.

Dirt Road Wedding

In Vancouver for a family wedding
I am foot sore lost
in the bridal shop,
lungs heavy.

Everyone asks me,
"Where's your boyfriend?"
and I say,
"In 1989."


In the third section of The Emily Valentine poems, Part III: Scraps Against the Screen Zoe Whittall writes letters to Judy Blume, Boy George, Axl Rose, Rayanne Graff, Molly Ringwald, Corey Haim and Emily Valentine.  They are hilarious.

Whittall was a much younger woman when these poems were written so we can understand her obsessions with these cultural iconic cut-outs from her youth - but what we need to notice, AND WE DO, is how sharp Whittall keeps her tools.  Zoe Whittall is best known as a novelist but then so is Michael Ondaatje, and they both burn poems with the best of 'em, highest order stuff.

Dear Boy George,

When I told my mother I was going to marry you as soon as I
was old enough to take the bus to Montreal by myself and go
see you at your concert, she said that probably would never
happen. And it didn't. Please explain.

My love forever,


Today's book of poetry rolled through The Emily Valentine poems like an old Cure song, sad, but with so much intelligent energy that the poems are irresistible.

Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, led our morning read with much robust laughter.  Whittall's big sense of humour is the under-coat on all these poems but it doesn't take much reminding that the serious side of Zoe Whittall is stone cold.  Today's book of poetry could listen to these poems all day long.

On Discovering

1. On re-discovering my love of pot:

Did I just ! brush my teeth ! for an hour?
I remember this feeling from recess!

2. On discovering how to love myself again:

my red bra falls out of my purse and onto the counter at the
Portuguese bakery where I buy my coffee on the mornings after.
The bakery is between our houses exactly. The woman with the
stubby band-aid makes me a latte without flinching.

3. On re-discovering self-esteem on January 2 :

Having .23 in my chequing
.47 in my savings
and a two day old coke hangover
is no reason to feel as bad about myself
as I do right now


Today's book of poetry enjoys Whittall's fiction, who wouldn't?  But we want more poetry.  This Tenth Anniversary Edition of The Emily Valentine poems is a balm, a great teaser, but we certainly want more.

Today's book of poetry has the Zoe Whittall poetry blues.

Image result for zoe whittall photo
Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall is the author of four novels, most recently The Best Kind of People (House of Anansi, 2016) and Holding Still for as Long as Possible (Anansi, 2010). She published her third collection of poetry, Precordial Thump, in 2008 with Exile Editions. She works as a TV writer and novelist in Toronto.

“This reminds me that I would like to know everything about this person.”
      —  Eileen Myles

“Zoe Whittall’s poems are snake bite cures masquerading as candy.” 
     —  RM Vaughan

“Zoe Whittall might just be the cockiest, brashest, funniest, toughest, most life-affirming, elegant, scruffy, no-holds-barred writer to emerge from Montreal since Mordecai Richler…” 
      —  The Globe and Mail




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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