Switch & Shift is a new anthology of Canadian avant-garde poetry, a field in which Canadian writers have excelled in the past 30 years. This rich collection shows that the experimental spirit remains vibrant in this country. It is a challenging work for those unfamiliar with alternative forms of poetic writing, but this makes for a book that demands multiple readings, making it a worthwhile purchase.
The poems’ formats are as diverse as the poets themselves. Darren Wershler-Henry summarized the book as “the hard squint and scrabble of people pursuing their own mad vectors.” The authors want to challenge accepted notions of language and poetry, which means there are no high school rhyme schemes to be found. There is a fair amount of concrete poetry in this collection, which is another area that Canadians have dominated.
Switch & Shift shows just how diverse poetry can be. Some of the work may leave you scratching your head wondering, “What the hell is this supposed to mean?” but that isn’t such a bad reaction, is it? You are up to the task! Feed your head! Read this book! (Vincent Ponka)
edited by derek beaulieu, Jason Christie and Angela Rawlings, $19.95, 192 pgs, The Mercury Press, 22 Prince Rupert Ave. Toronto, ON, M6A 2A7, themercurypress.ca