For the Birds. For the Humans. Conyer Clayton. battleaxe press. Ottawa, Ontario. 2018.
Today's book of poetry has met Conyer Clayton but we do not know Conyer Clayton. Clayton is part of a new generation of Ottawa poets and if For the Birds. For the Humans. is any indication, we are going to see great things from Clayton. She's got that connect.
Conyer Clayton has developed a language/vernacular that is distinctly avian and all her own. In truth Today's book of poetry is kind of slow, I doubt we've caught it all, completely cracked the code. But what Today's book of poetry does see is hope and optimism. In Clayton's poems we see/hear empowerment, we see joy.
The sun isn't warm enough
to justify stillness, so he grabs
her waist and lifts her up to stand, burying
his face in her belly and her dress for just a moment.
Hands on his shoulders, she looks at the sky
and laughs, says, this is for sitting, not standing,
but stays standing all the same. Pigeons swarm
with desperation. The stranger
seated next at her feet looks pointedly away
while the couple kisses. He feigns
focus, an eraser between his lips,
waiting for the words to come,
like the sudden flight of birds.
Birds play a big roll in Conyer Clayton's poetic universe, she is constantly calling for the virtues of flight. After a second/third close look at the poems in For the Birds. For the Humans. Today's book of poetry realized that our avian friends appear in all but one poem, lifting both the poems and the readers that much closer to Claytonworld.
Our morning read took flight when Maggie, our newest intern, grabbed Conyer Clayton's For the Birds. For the Humans.. Maggie said she was tickled to see another Ottawa woman ready to take charge in the Ottawa poetry world. Then Maggie chirped us all into order and we read Conyer Clayton's chapbook, lined up like ducks and chicks.
The city is heavy with unused potential,
sways, shifts, cobbles, vowels, sidewalks
busy with scheming and decay. Well-tended
cuticles and battlefields in tandem,
we all pedal faster, attempting to free
so many million voices insulated in construction
who echo in a pint glass and deep in my gut,
deeper in the sewers, claimed in the name of the queen
and rats. It's the difference between a guillotine
and a cutting board, a meadow and a lawn.
We step into the box, eager for escape.
A pigeon, a hawk, a seagull, Clayton uses therianthropy instead of anthropomorphism and gives her characters wings. Conyer Clayton is clever, the unresolved conflict in these poems, sometimes results from a failure to reach flight. But these poems punch, you can feel how they have weight. Clayton leads with her heart and her chin and the read always comes out ahead.
Conyer Clayton makes an instant impression. For the Birds. For the Humans. is a strong introduction to those of us who didn't see Clayton's The Marshes (& co. collective, 2017). Today's book of poetry can say with confidence that we will see more of Conyer Clayton and her fine, strong poems.
Our humor is written, our lives
carved like apple cores from empty stomachs.
The rigid paths we're forced to follow shear
the fuzz from our cheeks, change
our words, meddle with our minds.
Mechanized, we stand in agape
of skyscrapers, instead of cells or bubbles or crowds
moving mindlessly. Plastered, we plaster
green men and gods on our beer soaked walls
and sooty floors, like rebirth with drunkenness,
a Celtic tradition. I get it. We've worked
hard. We deserve a break, a pint, an ax,
someone to destroy and butcher.
Can't rest. The world is turning.
Today's book of poetry is always pleased to be able to post about a "local" poet. Ottawa is a city most of my American, and non-Canadian friends really don't know. We're a small town with a million people, we're spread out over the countryside with rivers and waterfalls and lakes and forests. Ottawa is a quiet city but poets like Conyer Clayton will change that.
Today's book of poetry is one of the older poets active in Ottawa but I see a wave of fine younger poets and that gives me hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHORConyer Clayton is an Ottawa based artist who aims to live with compassion, gratitude, and awe. Her most recent chapbooks are: Trust Only the Beasts in the Water (above/ground press, 2019), Undergrowth (bird, buried press), Mitosis (In/Words Magazine and Press), and For the Birds. For the Humans. (battleaxe press). She released a collaborative album with Nathanael Larochette, If the river stood still, in August 2018. Her work appears in ARC, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, The Maynard, Puddles of Sky Press, TRAIN, post ghost press, and others. She won Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize, 3rd place in Prairie Fire's 2017 Poetry Contest, honourable mention in The Fiddlehead's 2018 poetry prize, and was long-listed for Vallum's 2018 Poem of the Year. She is a member of the sound poetry ensemble Quatuor Gualuor, and writes reviews for Canthius. Her debut full length collection of poetry is forthcoming in Spring 2020. Check out conyerclayton.com for updates on her endeavours.--
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