Orioles in the Oranges
“I decorate the inside of his wallet with wings.” Memorable lines such as this are plentiful in Toronto-based poet Melanie Janisse’s debut collection of poetry, Orioles in the Oranges, a collection that tells the sometimes destructive story of modern love, woven together with a famous Métis legend of Pelee Island. The legend of Hulda involves a young woman who plunged to her death in Lake Erie after being left by her English husband.
The prose poems are hinged in two narratives, and the contemporary voice is that of a young woman who leaves Toronto for Pelee Island–the second narrative is a series of voices: Hulda’s mother– Owl Grandmother, Hulda’s husband, and Hulda herself. Janisse, herself part Métis, uses the legend and her own exquisite skills to weave together a cohesive body of work. It’s the fusion of modern with legend, rural with urban that makes the book exciting and defines Janisse’s crafty and at times haunting voice. “Toronto’s roads were made with Pelee Island limestone. I am certain that tonight, in this cold, you carry me. Stones. Moved from where they belong. Smooth, like molars. Divining the sheer will of men’s hard hands.” Definitely worth checking out. (Peter McKay)
by Melanie Janisse, $15.0090 pgs.,Guernica Editions, P.O. Box 117, Station P, Toronto, ON, M5S 2S6