Demilunes: Little Windows on QuTbec

by Translated & Introduced by David Solway
64 pages,
ISBN: 097327767X

A Set of Deadly Negotiations

by George Murray
40 pages,
ISBN: 0973277696

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Two Little Windows
by Matthew J. Trafford

Bearing the requisite fleur-de-lis on its cover and title pages, David Solway's Demilunes is intended to give readers a glimpse into the "unique phenomenon of QuTbTcois poetry and culture." These "little windows" reveal widely disparate interiors as the reader peers into QuTbec's "harsh and sustaining" landscape, fecund and complicated history, passionate devotion to its religious heritage, and luridly secular sensuality. The accomplishment that astonishes most is that the collection manages to remain cohesive while presenting such a variety of poetic material: poems which are urban and rural, imagist and conceptual, modern and contemporary. What unifies these very different pieces, from Claudine Gaudreau's lyrical and musing "In the World" to Paul-Marie Lapointe's experimental sound-based "Forbidden Fruit", is the quality and consistency of the translation. Solway's language never seems forced or awkward, but hums with the proper tension, a tautness which brings each poet's distinct voice into sharp relief. While for select readers a bilingual edition might have provided more scope on this literature, the space saved allows Solway to draw from a greater breadth of sources and to select more material. The end result is a harmonized, well-balanced collection of translated poems from "the other half of the place we live in."
Caryl Peters's design for George Murray's chapbook, A Set of Deadly Negotiations, includes the image of a small dangling spider, which is brilliantly appropriate for Murray's poetry. Every line shimmers with seduction and the possibility of danger, a savage beauty and ruthless efficiency. Certain poems, such as "The Beautiful Hands of Skeptical Women" and "An Evolution of Injury", fuse violence, sensuality, and grace into a seamless whole that feels both familiar and vaguely predatory. These poems describe a gossamer world where "rain falls in prison bars" and the "future floats foetal through a landscape/ of broken teacups and toppled salt pillars." Technically these poems are as intricate and fine as a dew-covered web; rhetorical questions and capitalization are used competently and significantly, punctuation with an elegant touch, parentheses sparingly and with a haunting sense of the possible. "Weather the shape of eggs," memory, hope, "humanity opening like nesting dolls," the "tiny cannibalisms of everyday," "one burning city," "the hourglass body, the sandy soul"-the poetic voice treats each subject reverently, as a delicacy to be savoured. The reader of this collection is a fly in George Murray's parlour, hypnotized by his rhythm and assonance, fascinated with his philosophical ruminations, and surprised by the "sheer range of darkness and light."

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