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book review:

Somewhere to Run From

With Somewhere to Run From-her sophomore effort-Toronto writer Tara-Michelle Ziniuk produces another undeniably readable, attractive little book of spare, plainspoken poetry (maybe the nicest-looking volume Tightrope Books has released, to boot). It’s chock full of sarcasm, cleverly slurred confessions, and the broken-bottle-sharp perceptions of a hurt, vulnerable narrator on the other side of some vague and amorphous blues. Many of Ziniuk’s caustic, biting lines transmit a palpable sense of desperation, anger and bitterness. References to hip Toronto locales and various pop culture ephemera ground the text in a real-world kaleidoscope of crushed straws, night-scapes and bar lights, which may indeed prove attractive to readers enamoured by the romanticism of place and time and youth (though to others this might bear a suspect whiff of Toronto hipster bohemia; but hey, tomato, tomahto).

And yet, despite its honest attractions, the success or failure of Somewhere to Run From may be a timing thing. As in, in order for the book to be effective, the reader must necessarily feel the same way as the writer. We can tell the narrator is sad. The voice screams melancholy and regret. But the “delicious anguish” on display either remains a museum piece, preserved and dried, or suffers from being far too personal to reach the universal, as if caught in the minutia and particularities of a life without the liner notes. In other words, it means the reader remains regretfully unmoved. It’s actually quite frustrating-we’re pulling for Ziniuk to make her move and break our hearts, but the moment never arrives. It’s most painfully acute in the shorter poems, which seem like sketches or preliminary Tara-Michelle Ziniuk drafts of more composed pieces. These fragments do not have the internal strength to stand-alone; they rely on the bulk of the collection and the sanctioning binds of the publisher to carry them through. Alternating the tone of the collection would also do wonders; maybe this would also encourage some welcome dabbling with form, which is decidedly absent. In the end, all this criticism should be taken with one hefty grain of salt. As I said-maybe it’s all a timing thing. (Spencer Gordon)

by Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, $16.95, 100 pgs, Tightrope books, 17 Greyton Crescent, Toronto, ON, M6E 2G1

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