Chapbook, Rob Thomas, Bywords, bywords.ca, $6
In his bio, Rob Thomas first describes himself as a stay-at-home dad, and that perspective informs the majority of the poems in this collection. He’s at the park with his kids, on the bus with his kids, doing laundry, eating cereal, going to the museum — it’s not a point of view that dominates a lot of chapbooks.
Brood thus runs the risk of becoming an examination of humdrum routines, but Thomas tends to employ playful analogies that breathe life into his anecdotes. In “monkeys,” for example, his kids — awake in the middle of the night — turn into the chimps from the “Five Little Monkeys” (jumping on the bed) song. “Oh, the proto-humanity,” Thomas cries.
Scattered between the reflections on fatherhood are entries from a charming series of revisionist fairy tale poems titled “missing children,” in which Thomas re-imagines familiar stories from unexpected (and often modernized) perspectives. In one, Little Red Riding Hood’s mother is interviewed by a police constable: “and this wolf, he interjects, / could you give me a description?” In another, a search party combs the forest for Hansel and Gretel, while “the twins / gorge themselves in the marzipan kitchen / and rehearse their story.”
While Thomas’ off-centre take on fatherhood is an amusing journey, these fairy tale poems are the best reason to check out Brood. They merit a longer collection of their own. (Scott Bryson)