Ink on Paper, Brad Cran, 96 pgs, Nightwood Editions, nightwoodeditions.com, $18.95
This is Brad Cran’s second poetry collection. His previous book, the non- fiction Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (with Gillian Jerome), won the City of Vancouver Book Award, and helped raise more than $60,000 for the city’s marginalized people.
Cran is a former Poet Laureate for the city, and when asked to read poetry during the 2010 Winter Olympics, he instead staged a public boycott, in part due to the exclusion of female ski jumpers from participating. He captures this sense of injustice, and the walls women have had to break through since the Olympic games were revived in 1896, in his poem “In Praise of Female Athletes Who Were Told No.”
As you might expect, the poems in this collection are decidedly political, from the biting “2010 Handbook for Entering Canada,” to poems tackling George W Bush’s America, the absurdity of Sarah Palin, the surrealism of tourism in Vietnam, and there’s also poems that are refreshingly and unapologetically feminist.
Many read like straight speech, or personal essays infused with the odd lyric, and with the long, contemplative lines, it works. The narrative pieces are well paced, and wonderfully layered. At his best, Cran sustains a balance between personal and provocative, and as politically charged as many of these poems are, it becomes impossible to remain impassive to their effect. (Nico Mara-McKay)