The wonderful Sue Goyette is one of 3 Canadians up for the world’s richest poetry awards: The $65,000 Griffin Prize. It’s an international award that receives submissions from forty countries worldwide.
Gaspereau Press published Goyette’s shortlisted collection, Ocean, and what a perfect marriage that is: Gaspereau make the finest quality books in the country, and Goyette writes poetry as well as anyone alive in Canada. Her poignant, punchy poems deserve to be bound with such class and care. Like the sea, Ocean will drag you in and steal your breathe away. This is fresh, unprecedented, cerebral, prophetic, and ultra-original poetry.
In Ocean, sue wades in metaphoric reaction to a life lived by the sea. The ocean is an image- and subtext-rich thing on the margins of her everyday life, and she plays off this, fishing fantastic parallels between the ebb and flow of the Atlantic and life itself. Sue uses the ocean to reflect on life, the world, and our place in it – but she plunges much deeper than that, both stylistically and conceptually. She’s making up her own metaphorical ocean mythology in these poems, and it makes for vibrant, innovative poetry.
The incline to our streets was first invented
as an easy way to feed the ocean tethered
to the end of them. We’d roll down bottles
of the caught breath of our gifted sermons.
We’d drag skeins of dream talk. Little hoofed
arguments. The ocean was a beast left in our care
and it was in our best interest to keep it fed.
This is how we thought back then. For awhile
it was renamed Dragon and men would spear its sides
and endure its wrath to get to the swimming jewels
beneath it. We often ate those jewels,
In these connected poems, titled “ONE” through “FIFTY-SIX,” Goyette mythologizes the history and future of our relationship to the sea, starting with poems like “Five” above, that speak of the origins of our relationship to the sea, and bringing us through to gems like “Forty-eight,” which gets at the pending catastrophes of our environmental ignorance,
Tourism was great until the ocean went all coyote on us.
Lurking behind schoolyards, attacking people.
We were told to act big. Stand aggressively in our place.
Experts in animal control told us we had polluted its natural habitat
with our motored hands and greasy mayor. It had to feed further
afield and was too wild to mediate. The marriage counselors
suggested we do five kind random things for it on a weekly basis
until it trusted us again.
Mythologizing the sea, by anthropomorphizing it and our relationship to it, is a remarkable, somewhat daring feat. One that’s produced a spellbinding read, that’s even a little funny at times. It takes boatloads of talent and skill to pull of a book like this, and more importantly, it takes conviction, courage, and ambition to plough your way into new terrain as an artist, as Sue has here. Goyette’s poetry has been recognized by many of the country’s most prestigious poetry awards, including the GG award, the Pat Lowther award, and the Atlantic Poetry prize. What more could she do to etch her name into the face of Canadian poetry excellence? The answer is this book, and it’s Griffin Prize nod. Sue Goyette is a piqued poet, and this book is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind collection that marries craft with creativity, in a way that should make a splash in what can be done with poetry.