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Michelle Elrick -- Night Table Recommendations

Tuesday, Jun 08, 2010 at 6:37pm

On my night table at the moment sit a small stack of collected poetry works, a very boring novel I haven't been able to finish, and a lovely little book by Kurt Vonnegut. Of the poetry, I have most enjoyed dipping into Pier Giorgio Di Cicco's Living In Paradise and Robin Skelton's Selected Poems. Each of these collections covers a significant portion of the author's writing life, affording me a chance to understand the development of each author's interest and character.

In the case of Di Cicco, a long absence from publishing during the 1980s and 90s (during which the he was living in a monastery north of Toronto) divides the book into two distinct halves. As I read his delicate verse, with its focus on light and water, images of Italy, Baltimore, Montreal and Toronto, I am also reading the life of the poet, in and around that gap of silence. Living in Paradise reminds that life is long an suffused with turning points. We inevitably change.

Robin Skelton's Selected Poems is quite different. Where Di Cicco's collection reads like a biography, Skelton's is a refinement of form--rich in rhymes and ballads, rooted in place and curious of time. Skelton, originally from England and later from Vancouver Island, captures landscape and translates it to words, eases into dialogue and character and writes of god, time and place as one who truly questions, always seeking deeper understanding.

Yet after a long day of work I am not always in the mood for such lofty expressions, so I've gotten into the habit of keeping Kurt Vonnegut nearby. Vonnegut understood the world, in all its political, religious and social complexity, yet rather than taking these things too seriously he approached with humour, offering insights into our human condition that always delight and calm my anxious mind. I just finished reading The Sirens of Titan, a book about meaning(lessness) in the universal scope, and the importance of love. Now I am reading God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian, a book of short fictitious interviews conducted by Vonnegut on his excursions to the afterlife, excursions made with the assistance of Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the staff at the lethal injection execution facility at Huntsville, Texas. This book promises to be just as delightful and important as The Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions and other Vonnegut gems that have lightened my thoughts and helped me put things in perspective in the past.


Michelle Elrick is a poet and fiction writer from B.C. and Manitoba. Her work has appeared in Event, Canadian Literature, Geez and the Emerge anthology. She is a graduate of The Writer's Studio at Simon Fraser University and has read at festivals and events in Vancouver, Winnipeg, London and Belfast. She is currently writing the final draft of her novel Dust House. Her first collection of poetry, To Speak, was the first place winner of CV2 and The Muses' Company?s "Show me the Book" contest (part of J.G Shillingford Publishing Inc) and was recently launched at McNally Robinson's Grant Park location.

Categories: Reviews, Poetry, Discussions, Authors

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