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Kate Spencer, Cradle and Spoon, Minor Works of Death Press, 2022.

by Lenska

Out of the depths of Kate Spencer’s confessional poetry emerge a figure and a voice of Lilith - visceral, expressive, embodied. Lilith is the primordial She who could not accommodate Adam’s lifestyle and was too wayward for Paradise. Ah, yes – and this Lilith is a poet, Queens of Stone Age listening writer, reading a bit like Plath or Sexton or both at times, acquainted with the psychoanalytic implications of Lacan and engaging with Kristeva. She is intellectually aware, well read, and an intimate of those ubiquitous human infirmities - fathers, mothers, lovers, and other substances that require specialized treatment to neutralize. 

Kate Spencer’s emotionally charged collection Cradle and Spoon works with tight traditional forms such as villanelle and madrigal, includes numerous literary allusions but is clearly dominated by an almost chaotic expressiveness that defies structures and straightforward solutions. Of course, that’s what makes it notable. A well-crafted collection of poems whose leitmotif is not an idea but energy – undulating, unpredictable, on occasion raging female energy - intriguing and absorbing. Kate Spencer writes well, and we hope she continues to engage her poetic gift to find places off the usual map, places that that female energy has not yet had a chance to land on and leave its unique mark.


Cradle and Spoon collection was published in 2022, by Minor Works of Death Press from Canada. Here is a biography of the poet, courtesy of the publisher:

"Kate hails from small town Saskatchewan. She received a Bachelor of Arts, Honours with a concentration in creative writing in 2017, and a Masters of Arts in 2020, from the University of Regina. Throughout her studies, she split her focus between poetry, specifically Confessional, and Modernist literature, completing her graduate thesis on James Joyce. 


She spends her free time in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, where her mother was born, and Kate lived as a child. The influence of the two provinces can be seen in her work as she grapples with the concept of homecoming against a changing backdrop of a seedy city, an empty small town, and a lonely woodland.  


This is her first poetry book."

Cradle and Spoon can be purchased from the website of the Minor Works of Death Press.

The Elements of Eloquence

by A. Non

I came across The Elements of Eloquence as a source text in a class I take. After about 2 pages I decided it was one of the most delightful and useful texts I’ve ever paid for. And, since I have a Kindle, it’s not that expensive. Win. Win. Win.


The author is funny, in that dry British way. Which I adore. If you hate it, you might want to stop reading, because you probably won’t like the book. 


The book is full of useful literary devices that allow you to pump up otherwise boring phrases. It works in prose of course, but I’m primarily a poet and I find that renewing my awareness of these (and learning new ones I’d never heard about) has made me think of poetic phrases and effects in a more complex way.


Here’s an example from chapter 9: the anadiplosis. The author gives an example from Yoda. Herein lies his sense of humour. Yoda says: "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." That repetition of the last word of a phrase as the first word of the next phrase? That’s anadiplosis. Imagine you’ve got a boring line, or some bit of dialog that just won’t come right? You could try phrasing it like this. Or use alliteration, or any of the other 37 devices the book covers. You’ll find something in there to help.


The trick is learning to use them, and then practising. That’s what I’m doing right now, and I have to tell you it’s fun. But maybe you’re one of those amazing poets with the genius-gift and don’t need help. If that’s you, you don’t need the book, and I never, ever, ever want to meet you.

Louise Glück - Faithful and Virtuous Night, 2014

by Lenska

Louise Glück turns 80 years old on April 22 and has been publishing remarkable poetry for the past six decades. Her latest collection “The Faithful and Virtuous Night” (2014) is by far the most intriguing and adventurous work, it seems to me. The craftsmanship is so thickly laid down, it can be cut with a knife, but it does not impede or overwhelm the workings of the poetry in the least. On the contrary, it seems to enable an ever more fruitful reading experience. And I greatly esteem Gluck for fearlessly throwing her literary nets ever bolder, wider, deeper as she exploits structures to let her poet’s voice emerge strong and vivid in the foreground. 

A dream-like, surreal ambiance is present throughout all the poems but is especially masterful in one titled “An Adventure,” in which the poetess rides on horseback through the kingdom of death passing by her loved ones along the way: 


“As we had all been flesh together;

Now we were mist.

As we had been before objects with shadows,

Now we were substance without form, like evaporated chemicals.

Neigh, neigh said my heart,

Or perhaps nay, nay – it was hard to know.”


But dreams aside, Gluck moves with ease between several invented poetic personas while, on occasion, dropping into autobiographical confessional writing. The most intriguing trope is not the use of multiple personalities; however, but the principal voice. The alleged author of the book is an elderly painter recounting his life from the time when he was a young boy until advanced age. Gluck writes as a young boy, then as an elderly man. Why she chose to make the principal voice an old male master is both her mystery and her magic.  

Besides the poetic voice, a sophisticated and pervasive ambiguity is another essential characteristic of Gluck’s work both here and in her earlier collections – this ambiguity is also often accompanied by an artfully troubling atmosphere. Disquiet, ambiguity, and tenderness are three descriptives that come to my mind when thinking about “The Faithful and Virtuous Night.” 

Theme-wise, Gluck’s poetry delves into parallels between sleep and death, nature of time, impact of family on inner and outer life, art and love which seem to have a redeeming role. She tends to paint for the reader profound yet tragically transient images of human experience. Psychoanalysis also looms large in the background of her writing and it does wonders to intensify the reading event. Because in Gluck’s case, reading is also an event. 

The book cover for the collection is an excellent photograph titled Darkened Cities, Shanghai by Thierry Cohen. This aptly chosen, by the poet herself, photograph expounds and completes the ambiance of “The Faithful and Virtuous Night” – Cohen’s image shows a dark night time scene with starry skies, silver river, skeletal bridge, and industrial scape – there is zero movement, no traffic, no human figures are present. It is a truly desolate yet somehow not an ominous image, it feels harmonious even if it is also unsettling. It seems that Gluck’s project was to infuse this strange nighttime cityscape with poems and stories that (can) become its soul. Or perhaps she simply found a face for the soul of her poetry. 

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