Monday, October 22, 2018

This Will Be Good - Mallory Tater (Book*hug)

Today's book of poetry:
This Will Be Good.  Mallory Tater.  Book*hug.  Toronto, Ontario.  2018.

This Will Be Good by Mallory Tater

This Will Be Good by Mallory Tater could be a mystery, will our heroine survive the self-loathing of her childhood?  It could easily be a romance because Today's book of poetry dropped his jaw and a little of his heart when we started to see just how Tater navigated.

It is so hard for children to become the children of their parents dreams, or their own, hard for young people period.  It's a complicated world and of course you all know that.  This Will Be Good could be seen as Tater's coming to terms with herself, big deal...
                                                                                        but there's magic in these here poems.

The sheer number of young people, women and men and the rest, who keep journals and write poems, it is entirely overwhelming.  And for the most part justifiably not for public consumption for personal and qualitative reasons.  

But Mallory Tater has panache.  There are moments of pure electric joy in these sad poems.  These are poems of such tender honesty that you will want to reach out to the young people in your lives.

Tater goes bone deep.

All Things Wasted

Point Roberts, WA

Wind blows ocean into our yard
and Grandpa buttons his jacket,
says brennen zaun, let's burn the fence.
That barely remembered German
barnacles his throat. Storm will tear
the pickets down, wood half-rotten
and aren't we cold. Cabin pipes
good and frozen. Globe thistles,
gunmetal blue, die on my shoelaces.

Grandpa sucks a Lucky Strike, exhales
bats and bats. Spiked wings fall
from his lips, thread through
my loosened teeth, snag on my gums,
receded from griding in sleep.
Grandpa unearths our fence,
a simple pulling of teeth. We snap
each post against our knees,
chipped fangs tossed to the pit.
We are ready for the feel of fire.

The horses by the beach are starving.
Grandpa knows the man who aged
and tamed them, let livestock suck life
slowly from him. King tides have flooded
our street, have cured our fallen crabapples.
We feed them to flames, all fence and fruit,
and Grandpa looks so pleased, the scent

of all things wasting. A boy who once hid
in Steinheim fields, stole asparagus shoots
from farmers. The war was over, his mother
widowed, grief turned to endless
hunger. Sparks settle on the corners
of Grandpa's mouth. Fence turns to ash.
Next summer, we'll just build a new one.
Hearing aids off, all sound in his lap.
Neighbour's anxious flag, muted.
Grandpa says we have so much
and aren't we warm.

Later, he falls asleep and I watch
two horses drink hopelessly.
Their tongues push
under rocks for crab meat. Sand fleas
chew their spines as they spit
their wild minds on saw-tooth shells.


Mallory Tater's fight against her eating disorder adds a particular slant to This Will Be Good.  It is a very intimate inside look, we taste what she does, understand her choices.  But Today's book of poetry is convinced that any subject Tater put her considerable talents to would result in the same intimate and clever tenacity.

What Today's book of poetry is so clumsily trying to express is that we think Tater has it.

"Finding your place in the world," as Book*hug suggests on the cover of This Will Be Good, is a universal struggle and Mallory Tater has turned her voyage into art.


The winter my waist shed six inches,
my period stopped. My breasts depressed,
the skin around them slacked sackish
and loose. I became like burlap and this calmed
my hands. I no longer had a belly to pinch.
My throat withstood the aftermath
of meals. I sucked lemons after losing
to cool and clean cuts from biled food
clawing. All this to say that when it stopped,
I was glad. Tampons at the bottom of my bag
flattened but I kept them on hand
to hand to girlfriends in need before gym class.
I told my mother how sick I must be. She paid so much
attention to me we forgot my sisters, who held pencils
in their hands late into the night, who held hands
in church parking lots, laughing with communion
stuck to the roofs of their mouths. They did not take
the host from the priest, pretend
to swallow, slip it into their pockets. They wrote
nice letters to each other, slipped them under
bedroom doors, borrowed each other's blouses
and blouses forever. They loved Sunday night
strawberries and ice cream in front of the TV.
They did not feed the dog their breakfasts.
Mabel would learn to love French toast, get fat
and sick and her paws would shake from old age
but I would imagine it as all the sugar I gave her
and feel a wave of shameful indulgence. I would
no longer bleed and cramp and share in it. I would say
I hoped to be clean and thin forever like this
but in secret, I felt unabashedly dry,
excluded and light.


Our morning read was taken over by our new intern, Maggie.  Maggie wears long-sleeved shirts all year long and she told me that she had some experience in the Taterworld of eating disorders and so on.  

The reading, as Maggie organized it, was sharp, crisp and crystal clear, the deeper we went in, the more everyone in the room leaned toward the centre.  Connected.  We were all in line, in tune, like we were singing backup to Laura Nyro, Patti Labelle Sarah Dash Nona Hendryx style.

Good work Tater.  Good work Maggie.

On the Train to Royal Columbian Hospital

We are told Grandpa will sleep his way
to death tonight. The infection in his pancreas
and lungs cannot be fixed with drainage
or prayer from the wandering chaplain.
We are told the father of our mother who built
cabin sheds and showers, drank mugs of ice milk
before bed, bought tickets to community magic
shows, will soon no longer breathe. The last
show he took me to before I became
a teen, a local widow who called herself
the Ta-Da Lady. Grandpa and I both raised our hands
and she asked us onto the stage. She held a sheet
to the crowd and we slipped through a trap door.
Beneath floorboards, Grandpa's heavy breathing
shielded me, thick as a coat. He said we were part
of the illusion, our bodies, thin air. His breath,
cherry cough drops and Dairy Queen cones.
We were beautifully gone together. Tonight I feel
the heat and weight and confusion of my sisters.
They conjure the same memory:
Grandpa swimming between sandbars
near our family cabin, bobbing up for breath
and flashing his teeth, sneering. He would become a shark
and would chase us. In our small blossomed
bathing suits, we used to run towards the shark,
never away, into his oceaned arms.


A little bit of joy can go a long way.  It doesn't take much to make some people feel alive and worthy.  This Will Be Good stopped Today's book of poetry in our poetry tracks.  

Yesterday we were in Tamworth, Ontario, at the Book Shop, one of the best little book stores in the world, for a poetry reading.  Two men.  Both worth listening to.  But clearly male voices.  Mallory Tater poems come from a young woman's voice - but this old man needed to read these, these poems held this old man's poetry interest from the start to the end.

We will be talking about Mallory Tater's poetry again.  We are sure of it.

Image result for mallory tater photo

Mallory Tater

Mallory Tater is a writer from the traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg Nation (Ottawa). Mallory’s poetry and fiction have been published in literary magazines across Canada such as Room Magazine, CV2, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly, Carousel, Prism International and Arc Magazine. She was shortlisted for Arc Magazine’s 2015 Poem of The Year Contest, The Malahat Review’s 2016 Far Horizon’s Contest and Room Magazine‘s 2016 Fiction and Poetry Prizes. She was the recipient of CV2’s 2016 Young Buck Poetry Prize. She is the Publisher of Rahila’s Ghost Press, a poetry chapbook press. She lives in Vancouver.

This Will Be Good is a prayer, vicious and sweet. Tater’s dexterous language shreds the pink ribbons of nostalgia to remind that girlhood is both ‘sugared with fear’ and ‘diamond-hard.’” 
      —Adèle Barclay, author of If I Were In a Cage I’d Reach Out For You
This Will Be Good details the truths of girlhood; how young women treat themselves with cruelty and tenderness, fend off and court desire, and brace themselves for a world that both expects too much of them and yet never enough. These poems unfold as stories girls tell each other as they make space to share, cope, grieve, and hopefully, heal.”
      —Dina Del Bucchia, author of Coping with Emotions and Otters, Blind Items and Don’t Tell Me                                             What to Do
“Evocative and tactile as unearthed memory, This Will Be Good follows the history of a family through years, homes, seasons, and bodies. They’re death and grief, sex and religion. A reckoning with womanhood, manhood, and memory, these stories have a feeling of being passed down, kept secret, and slipped in notes and gestures between intimates whose closeness is felt on the skin. Press these words to your breast.” 
      —Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star and Sunshine State


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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