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Do you remember your Canadian Lit class? Do you remember reading endless poems about mountains and rivers and trees and the wild, untamed west until you were really glad that cities were taking over the landscape? Apparently, no one told Jon Sookocheff that poetry about western Canada is supposed to be boring and dense.

In Five Days Ago West, Sookocheff tells us traveller’s tales through free-form, unpunctuated verse. His words fall onto the page thought-by-thought and oddly disjointed, but their rhythm is steady and hypnotic. The language itself moves from the stark and simple to the ornate and back again. Sookocheff also has an intriguing habit of leaving a line incomplete, forcing the reader to complete it, gently demanding audience participation. It’s a hook that works because he does not overuse it. The charm of the scenes he chooses is that while they often focus on the land and its people and even political turmoil, he is just as likely to be distracted by something small and trivial. This makes far more immediate and interesting poetry. The poems that tell of the journey home perfectly illustrate the sense of displacement someone can have when seeing their own town with new eyes.

While many free-form poetry collections seem random and haphazard, this one definitely gives us a sense of the journey taken and is unified in its themes. In a brilliant literary choice, a butterfly often appears in the middle of a thought or scene, like another character, or the ghost of one. It’s a haunting image, and a neat way to tie up a collection that should not be missed, even if you still sometimes lose sleep over those Lit classes. (J. Blackmore)

Poetry Zine, Jon Sookocheff, $3 + Postage, 6-205 4th St W, Cornwall, ON, K6J 2R9,

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