One Thing — Then Another

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

I'M LATE FOR POETRY MONTH

Spoiler alert: I am a horrible poetry reader. Often it feels like improvisational jazz - for some reason (perhaps my need for order?) I have a hard time connecting. I keep trying and may be getting a tad better at it. The best part of poetry (so many forms and formats) makes selection difficult. I can look at non-poem genres and covers and have a gut reaction to what's inside and whether it's for me. That ability has been ground into my bones by decades of experience with hits and misses. Poetry not so much, and the exact thing I love about it (the lack of "rules," or at least rules I understand) makes it hard to pick out what I might relate to. So I swing semi-blindly and hope to connect. Even when I don't, I learn something. Win-win.

There was simply no way for me to resist Claire Kelly's collection, One Thing - Then Another. Everything about this cover makes me want to figure out what the hell is going on inside.

I liked the collection very much. It's broken into sections--"East, "Then," and "West," and begins with a line from a Karen Solie poem, Bitumen: "The west stands for relocation, the east for lost causes." The bridge of "Then" is a move from Eastern to Western Canada with both ends a series of contrasts. See below for a description of the book from the book itself.

There are nifty cultural references (film titles, music, even a poke at Americans--rightfully so--about the Fox channel's use of a glowing puck during hockey games so we could follow the game) which I'm always a sucker for, but it still all comes down to language. Kelly has some fantastic lines, including: "Persistent as a raccoon drawn on by the perfume of antifreeze" and "ah blessed midnight organizer of books and records by alphabet, by genre, by country of publication, by size and year, by mood." She kept me engaged even when I was hesitant.

The collection starts with a lovely piece that highlights both what I get (the words) and what I don't (the format). It's called Yesterday I thought winter had given up:

Yesterday I thought winter had given up
all its images: white worn out, utter glut of neutral.
       But today, weird mitt-ruts. Snow-bank etchings from kids dawdling
their hands to school;
overhead another storm
isn't breaking but is moving on: the elm-edge and the cloud-edge slotting
into each other.
       As if the tree picked up the sky secondhand, and wears it--
       a sapphire heavened hoodie in the black and white film of early
March.
Then,
expertly, the elm-clutch
       lets loose, disrobes. A sliver of blue expands, becomes a sluice, a
gorge, becomes the whole
damned naked winter
       flouncing down a side street shoving her hands
knuckle-deep
in the bank.

I adore the image of the different "ruts" and "etchings" from the mittened hands of kids on their way to school. That was one of those "Yes!" poetry moments. I would love input on the format. As an anal-retentive with OCD, I usually find these formatting choices jarring. They disturb the natural order of things I'm used to. Which is good, but it also makes me want to understand and find a reason, when there really may be none other than what the poet felt in the flow. Maybe I'm trying to force too much reason into things (unsurprising). I'm trying to use poetry to loosen up a bit, but I also welcome all input into format from those who know much more about poetry than I. So comment away.

"One Thing--Then Another is a collection of poetry divided into three unique sections: "East" explores the constraints of living under the poverty line in a have-not province. "And" is a long poem about moving in a U-Haul across the prairies during an ice storm. "West" considers what it meas to live in the have-est of have provinces and trying to acclimate to that alongside an ever-present drought. The poems are largely about contrast: east to west, flood to aridity, poverty to comfort, small town to city."

This is a collection I now have on my list to buy for the shelf. It came out on April 19, 2019 from ECW Press. Claire Kelly's first full-length collection of poetry is titled Maunder and it's now on my list. Hope you'll give her a gander.
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These poems didn't resonate with me, though I can appreciate they are well written. I wonder if the formatting of the e-book may be partly to blame?  I suspect it is not as the poet intent and that may have prevented me from emotionally connecting with much of the writing. "How to Invoke the Patron Saint of Procrastination" was my favorite poem, and I'd be curious to read more by this author.
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Thank you to Netgalley For providing me with a review copy.

I gave this a three out of three stars for this one. I enjoyed it while I was reading but it took me a while to finish it. That could have been just me but I’m not sure either. None of the poems in this collection stood out to me.
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I don't typically read much poetry, but Claire Kelly's collection of poems caught my eye.  As someone who has moved back and forth across the country (in my case, the United States) a few times, I thought the poems would resonate with me.  "One Thing -- Then Another" is a quick read, and a pretty good one.  I did worry that I was missing some of the "art" of the poems because I read an e-copy of the book, which likely altered some of the sentence construction and spacing choices that can impact how one reads a poem.  And at times, I thought Kelly relied a bit heavily on pop culture references (this was well done in "A Millennial's Poem", but heavy-handed in "Westward U-Haul Gothic") or other quotes and references.  I thought the poems were best when evoking something on their own, instead of leaning on other works the reader is likely familiar with.  I especially loved "How to Invoke the Patron Saint of Procrastination", and may print a copy to keep at my desk.  "How Turkeys Became City-Dwellers in Edmonton" captured some of the mundane-yet-unique aspects of city life perfectly, with the perfect note of irreverence.   In all, a nice change of pace for this older millennial who also dreams of the west from time to time.
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Didn’t got me on the writing .. however i do like the some content of this book and wouldn’t read it again i found it a bit boring.
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I appreciate very much what this poet did, but I don't know that I enjoyed reading the collection. Quite a lot of the time I felt like I just didn't understand the point. I had too much difficulty connecting to the poems. They simply do not resonate with me. They are smart, very, that's apparent. But I don't feel that the majority of people will find these accessible.
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I very much enjoyed this collection of poetry. Clever, funny, and filled with fresh images exploring interesting ideas.
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I was intrigued by the writing and the book itself. I loved the stories and its so inspirational. Thank you for letting me review! Loved it!
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One Thing — Then Another: Poems by Claire Kelly is the poet's second collection of poetry. She lives and writes in Edmonton, Alberta.

The poetry is of contrasts much like the title suggests, and the verse flows across the country of Canada from East to West. The collection opens with a winter scene, but Kelly sets the hook with "Cool Enough to Sink a Ship:"

I wanna be cool the way Patti Smith says
coool.

Smith references always make me look a little deeper. This is not just a passing reference but an inclusion of Smith's first cover "Hey, Joe" and continues with an undercurrent of Smith's style. At times I was anticipating a chorus of "Horses, horses, horses" as the poet moved west.  From there, the poetry contrasts life from observation of squirrels, memories of her father's stories, and all those things we pick up and carry through life:

So he keeps on hauling.
On his shoulders the straps
digging in, as he carries
another sack full of smithereens,
metallic forgottens,
un-talismans,
west and away,
for good and always.

The West comes through in a U-haul ride across the country and an intermission of poetry inspired from a wide range of movies from Them! to Mad Max. Early snow poems are now contrasted by the rain of the West. More than just contrasts, Kelly offers the reader a pleasing flow of poetry when she slips out of prose style and into verse:

More swift ones swoop beyond with gusty strides,
but in neutral disguise, wrinkleless black, navy, grey—
no flashy purple or sick sleet-green,
no totter to their posture, places to go,
colleagues to sway, Nimbostrategic-climber,
with paper in paperclips, highlighters beaconing
the points they’ll forecast.

Kelly's second collection brings the American reader a look into Canada and a look at one of Western Canada's rising poets.
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This book of poetry had poems with which I really connected, and poems with which I did not. I enjoyed the way in which the poems were organized thematically. Several of the poems had pop culture references that I greatly enjoyed, and that made me smile. Additionally, there were several poems that I could definitely envision working through with my students. 
This was a lovely anthology to  read. I would read more poetry from this author.

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