Review: Refugia

Patrick Horner, 136 pgs, University of Calgary Press,, $24.99

Beginning in Victoria in 1965 and working backwards through a missing persons case, Patrick Horner’s new poetry collection uses “found evidence” of prose poems and letters to tell the story of two biological anthropologists researching rare specimens on a remote archipelago.

Told in fragmented, rapidly oscillating points of view, Refugia muses on the insufficiencies of language in the face of a vast and unexplainable island. One researcher struggles throughout the collection with how to properly communicate the incommunicable. Roland con-fuses time as he writes to his future self as a ghost of the past in short, feverish reports trying to accurately record and describe its resplendence.

In contrast, Emily employs a frustratingly academic, but usually fascinating blend of scientific jargon and romantic sentiment. Her narration is occasion-ally grotesque, but not for its own sake. Her sections are somewhat obtrusive, and her scientific terms tend to go over my little literary head, but the shared instinct to quantify the unquantifiable shines through. Together they experience a slow descent into willful insanity in the island’s isolation.

Horner plays with the nature of voice and who exactly gets to speak. Bear and Mouse are specimens the biologists are studying who can communicate with each other through metaphysical letters about the nature of nature and their own observations of the humans. Together, they reveal truths about nature as some great human equalizer in their animal reality. “Words are more important when we want to take something with us,” and they don’t need to take a thing. Even though they are dead, it takes far longer for them to diminish.

Later, the narration takes on more spiritual undertones to describe more surreal experiences. Because of their solitude, our narrators have some difficulty figuring out what is real, and thus so does the reader. As we go on, we realize just how unimportant an adequate description of their surroundings is to absorb — as insufficient language may be — the depth and shared consciousness of the natural world.


Overtime and Improv Classes: Aisha Franz on Work-Life Balance and Berlin’s Tech Culture Clash

Berlin is now home to more than 600 startups, modeling themselves after successful American businesses, many tried to import American workplace culture. Cartoonist Aisha Franz' latest book is a satire of the calamity that ensued.

Hazel Jane Plante on Any Other City, Re-Writing a Life and The Museum of Jurassic Technology

"As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also realized that I’ll never have time to create all the projects that bubble up in me, so they often come alive in my fiction."

One Day We Will All Die. Who’ll Make Comics Then? David Galliquio and Comix in Unpredictable Peru.

"People thought I was a degenerate, I did what I did only because the one underground rule was that there were no rules." How the perilous, conservative rulership of Peru shaped its counterculture.

Walking Tall: Boots Riley on the Utility of Absurd Art

“What I want to do is use this exaggeration to point out contradictions and to point out ironies and skip over large swaths of theory and just smack it in your face. That’s the usefulness to me.” The activist, musician and director tells us how to speak to a world that's gotten strange.

NOW What: Is There A Future for the Alt-Weekly?

The loss of local voices goes beyond arts scenes and progressive op-eds as trusted legacy publications become propaganda for your city's worst actors.