Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Drolleries — Cassidy McFadzean (McClelland & Stewart)

Today's book of poetry:
Drolleries.  Cassidy McFadzean.  McClelland & Stewart.  Toronto, Ontario. 2019.

Drolleries by Cassidy McFadzean

Today's book of poetry had the pleasure of reading Cassidy McFadzean's first collection, Hacker Packer (McClelland & Stewart, 2015), so we were ready for this, but not quite.  We're pretty certain that writing like this isn't something new for McFadzean but it is exciting and new for us.

This voice hits above and below the belt.  With crisp jabs and hooks you never see coming.  Drolleries muses fantastic on slivers and witch hazel, pine needles and shower mould, the last El Greco and the real Madrid.  

It doesn't really matter what Cassidy McFadzean is writing about, it is how.  Everything she touches becomes immediately fascinating because the reader has early confidence that McFadzean is going to put on curve on the outcome worth watching.


Witch hazel in my pussy.
Rose water on the brain.
Let's not go down memory lane,
but memory locker, feelings stored away.

I keep my garbage in the freezer
just like the city taught me.
I know it's love, when during sex
my new lover wipes my ass for me.

Zip up your feelings, Will advised
looking over the Brooklyn Bridge.
I watch a man zip his pet rat
into his jacket on the subway.

Have I ruined another group chat?
Have I repressed a painful memory?
I say goodbye with vocal fry
so I can feel it in my body.


It will take much better read people than Today's book of poetry can afford to hire to understand all of McFadzean's references to Anna Karenina, Nastagio degli Onesti, the air Homer breathed or what a Zora bag is.  But it doesn't matter, Today's book of poetry was enthralled, invested, excited and fulfilled by what McFadzean was cooking.

Our offices are a little empty these days as family commitments have reduced our ranks.  Today's book of poetry is sending all the appropriate prayers.  Family is everything.  But those of us here are riding with McFadzean.

It is somewhat like being in a fast car inside a fascinating museum, and all of that in a dream.  Take that.  Drolleries surprised and genuinely delights every time you turn a page.  Cassidy McFadzean is so clever smart it is inspiring.  Today's book of poetry will show this poetry to everyone, say "here, read this!"


Previews for movies we've already seen comfort
like digging for a stone I know by feel,
engraved with my fortune, hand-picked.

In the night, ice cracks in the AC, waking us.
I turn the dial and hear women yelling
in the street, then a car turning into the alley.

In morning fatigue, my vision settles
on the veins of a woman bagging our groceries
at Bulk Barn. A bulging star, she brandishes

something other-worldly implanted in her.
We want to be stranger than what we are.
I pay what we owe and enter the idling car.


Today's reading at the Today's book of poetry offices was late, interrupted, hurried and ultimately not worthy of Cassidy McFadzean's fine Drolleries.  We will take another crack at it tomorrow morning.  By then we should have a few more oars in the water and be getting up to speed.

Today's book of poetry continues to consider some changes in our format.  We would be most appreciative and curious to hear what you, our readers, would like to see more of, less of, or something new altogether?

You regular readers know how much Today's book of poetry loves a list poem.  Here.

Last Walk

Tired of wandering the same prairie
roads outside the city, tired of parking
on the same patch of flattened grass
beside the trail marker. Tired of climbing
over the barbed wire, tired of waiting
for trucks to pass before crossing the dirt
highway. Tired of brushing ticks off
the fabric of tucked socks, plucking not-yet
swollen abdomens. Tired of descending
into the branches. Tired of finding a way.
Tired of feeling limbs snap back as I follow
you toward a path, tired of reading the map.
Tired of squishing purple berries between
index finger and thumb, tired of feeling
numb. Tired of swatting flies, tired of saying
I'm thirsty, asking for a drink of water
from the bottle that you carry. Tired of deciding
how much farther to go. Tired of taking
the same tired photo, tired of rusted tractors
parked in a more or less straight line,
tired of being tied to the grid superimposed
on the terrain, tired of crouching beside
a hole in the ground waiting for a glimpse
of something alive before turning away.


A list poem of a sort.  This one was a real smasher.

Books like Drolleries don't come along that often in poetry world.  As clever, intelligent and informed as McFadzean obviously is, these poems never intimidate, even this shaky reader.  McFadzean carries a big stick, but softly.

All hands on deck gave Drolleries the Today's book of poetry office standing ovation.  First class marks.  Today's book of poetry thought these confessions and celebrations merited wine in the kitchen.

Photo of Cassidy McFadzean
Photo:  Sarah Bodri

Cassidy McFadzean

CASSIDY McFADZEAN was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 2015, she published Hacker Packer, which won two Saskatchewan Book Awards and was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Her poems have appeared in magazines across Canada and the U.S., including BOAAT, Prelude, The Fiddlehead, PRISM international, and Arc, and have been finalists for the CBC Literary Awards, The Walrus Poetry Prize, and the Canadian Authors Association’s Emerging Writer Award. Her work has been anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry 2016, The New Wascana Anthology, and In Fine Form 2. She lives in Toronto.

“McFadzean’s debut collection is a finely layered exploration of language and archetype rooted in mythology, history, intimate reflections, and more external ghosts. It is all unearthed in deliciously adroit wordplay and exploration of form, capped off in two perfect, mirrored closing notes–one long, one short–that leave the tongue still thirsty, tasting peaty, tilled earth. A most satisfying and accomplished collection.” 
      —Publishers Weekly

“The poems in Hacker Packer cross imaginative boundaries between human and animal, intimate strangers and mythical beasts, and traverse a self-scrutinizing frontier between pathos and mordant irony. McFadzean is as anxiously comfortable with the idiom of Justin Bieber as she is with that of bardic Old English, and maps her way across a densely laid path of sound and forms. Her work is a dazzling and sometimes threatening guidebook to an interior landscape of ‘no sure footing we found we stood on.'” 
     —Mark Levine, author of The Wilds

Cassidy McFadzean
Reads from Hacker Packer
Video: The Leader-Post



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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this great post with great poet with us.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this great poet as a post with us.


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