Pedlar Press has a reputation for publishing some of the most beautiful and engaging books in the country. That reputation holds true with Sandra Ridley’s Post-Apothecary, an elegant follow-up to her award-winning Fallout (Hagios Press, 2010). Here, Ridley explores the terrain of illness and treatment: the precarious subjection of the patient immured by a system of care, the violence of an unfamiliar substance on or in the body, the disorientating process of a painful mental and physical experience and the struggle to be “cured.” Extended poetic sequences become increasingly fragmented as the book proceeds through the anxiety of trauma, illness and invasive treatment.
Many questions arise from Ridley’s writing. What are the ways in which we process trauma and illness? What does it mean to be “ill” and to be “cured”? To further complicate these questions, the poet seems to write herself into the text: “When she did start talking, she said: Get a hold of yourself Ridley. You have got to get a hold of yourself.” To explore this world, she uses a poignant and peculiar diction adopted from the uncommon discourse of medicine and treatment. It is simultaneously engaging and alienating, undermining our conception of what it means to be cured and highlighting the isolation and rigour of the healing process. (Eric Schmaltz)
Sandra Ridley, 81 pgs, Pedlar Press, pedlarpress.com, $20