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Lorna Crozier, The Wrong Cat
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2015

Crozier’s bio reads like a Canadian poet’s wish list and her latest and 17th book of poetry, The Wrong Cat, is an achievement in and of itself.

In her newest collection, the reader is invited to witness celestial conception, a heartbreaking mask, The Beatles, Dostoevsky’s teeth, blackberry pickers and a tyrannical otter, to name but a few, with vivid and memorable vocabulary, all in her strong, omnipresent voice. This is a book of love poems for the world from inside it.

Crozier makes some discerning lyric choices but, at times and for my taste, some of her lines feel extended beyond what is required, as with her ekphrastic poem “Van Gogh Went Out to Paint the Stars”:

We’ve been told God’s in everything.
Here’s the proof. Even if you’re looking
for something else, there’s a likelihood,
if you live in middle North America – rural,
small town – you’ll find him. At least a part.
His anguished foot in the wine stain
on your carpet, his heart on your flannel sleeve.

While many parts work very well here—including her subversive commentary on faith-based religion—the last lines of the poem (“Sometimes a starry, starry night is just / a night with stars”) decrescendo to an ineffective summation which leans on the side of trite, especially given the title of the poem which detracts from the beautiful imagery

I delighted in reading and re-reading Crozier’s sequential poem “Notes for a Small Pocket” which is tender and playful yet melancholic and cautionary (sometimes all at once), recurring tones throughout the greater collection which complement the fable-like anthropomorphic sympathy of some of her pieces:

“Game”

By the pond at night
three raccoons play
paper, scissors, rock.
They have the hands
to do it. When they get bored
they turn ahead the clocks
while you lie sleeping.
That’s why, no matter
What your age, by dawn
Your time is up.

In pieces like “Owl’s Take on Man,” Crozier applies her knack for redefining universal questioning through luscious imagery and by sparking more questions to keep her readers invested in turning the pages:

We know more
about their god than they do.
They can’t hear his silence
as he drops on hungry wings
into the world.

They can’t see him in the dark
when he moves among us,
when he collects our pellets
among the fallen leaves
and takes them apart,

spits on the little bones
to clean them,
and one by one,
reconstructs the mice.

It’s remarkable to see someone as decorated and prolific as Crozier still in awe of the world around her, with stories to tell, from the heart. With any luck for her readership, we’ll continue to bear witness for?many more collections to come.

 

A graduate of Algonquin College’s Creative Writing program,?winner of Arc’s 2013 Diana Brebner Prize, and a 2014 Hot Ottawa Voice,?Marilyn Irwin‘s poetry has been published by?above/ground press,??Bywords,?In/Words and?Matrix Magazine?among others.?Her most recent chapbook,?the blue, blue there,?was published by?Apt. 9 Press in 2015.? She runs shreeking violet press in Ottawa.

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