Low Centre of Gravity
Michael Dennis, 88 pgs, Anvil Press, anvilpress.com, $18
Michael Dennis died from pancreatic cancer at the end of 2020. Dennis was known for his gritty and plainspoken poems, which frothed with impish humour and deep humanity. His “hockey night in Canada’’ — both the poem and the performance of it — was the stuff of small press lore, as was a one-month “residency” writing in the window of an Ottawa bookshop in the mid-80s.
Low Centre of Gravity is one of his final books and it is a hell of a great place to leap on the bandwagon, with both feet. Vignettes from daily life are his bread and butter and this book is thick with them. The story of the neighbourhood junky, told in the to and fro; the back and forth of the junky down the street; the stripper who can shoot ping pong balls across the room, and the bucolic serendipity of seeing a bee poop. Like all great poets, he tells it slant and always mines for that universal kernel. In “We Were Early in Our Marriage” the narrator watches his wife declare her devotion by mounting a kamikaze bike charge at an attacking dog: “In that moment / I saw the fearlessness of love / and the ferocity / I had long suspected.” Dennis loves on through the words. Jump on. It is one hell of a ride.