HMS Press Book Reviews


My Coming of Age

Review by Elana Wolff

I.B. Iskov HMS Press, 2018, 48 pp ISBN: 978-1-55253-095-5 The forty-four poems in My Coming of Age-a chapbook with the inside-cover subtitle The Best of an Ongoing Collection of a Life Expressed in Poetry-represent I. B. (Bunny) Iskov's selection of previously published poems, most of which have received contest citations. The title poem, My Coming of Age-a riff on the fan-fiction mold, told as homage to The Beatles-aptly captures the poet's characteristic wry sense of humour and unshielded personableness in the face of life's swerves, curves, and world concerns. "The Beatles belonged to me / in my coming of age. It was a freer time / even though the Viet Nam war was raging, / even though there was unrest in the Middle East, / even though my parents were constantly fighting, / I had my Beatles record / to keep me safe and happy / when they sang All You Need Is Love ..." Bunny Iskov displays a discerning eye for the everyday, as captured in titles like Chronic Cough, Wringer Washer Warranty, and Ode to My Computer; genuine interest in the 'everyman' in poems like Trucker on the 401, Lucy and Desi, and Pamela for Mayor; and strong identification with her Jewish self in What Is a Jew, The Jewish Side of the Poem, and Be on Guard. An Iskov poem speaks with personal conviction and plainspoken pluck: "I am in charge," says the narrator in Bedtime Chimera; "My depression is a page in your book," she declares in As One Cradles Pain; "I remember the last time / I worked the street in high heels," she says tongue-in-cheek in the savvy-shopper piece, cleverly titled Cheap Love. There's a strong thread of sadness underlying the humour and juxtaposed easiness in many of these pieces. Humour is often a cover and a face for deep and complicated emotions, and it's clear that I.B. Iskov has the latter. She reveals her own Complicated Suffering and Personal Complexities; remembers and pays tribute to those who have gone to the other side: the beloved people's poet, Ted Plantos, in the surging opening poem What Plantos Meant to Poets Trapped Within Socio-Economic Boundaries; her girlfriends "Marilyn, Rhondi and Lolly" (lost to cancer) in Making Macaroni and Cheese; her mother in Memory and Loss; and the dead at large in When the Dead Do not Depart. In possibly the most touching and illuminating piece in the chapbook, Glass House, the poet writes: "I open my cabinet doors, / rearrange familiar figurines ... "I care for moments, dust them off, display them / on little easels. / I'm composed." This could be the artist's statement. She makes what she will of her life-delicately, deliberately and artfully, piece by piece. Wallace Stevens wrote that "the poet is the priest of the invisible." I submit that Bunny Iskov is the priestess of the visible. My Coming of Age is a collection that will let you know who I. B. Iskov is and what she stands for.

First response to "Field; Haiku and Senryu" is in ! :D January 29 / 20 Ronda, Your poems are delightful. I began picking out favourite snippets but there were so many that I stopped halfway through. Your use, in "field", of humour, anthropomorphism, and juxtaposition of proportion / scale represents a thorough comprehension of the Japanese style. I look forward to reading the rest! Sincerely, Brendan C. aka Avatar X

Review by Becky Alexander

Few books as apt a title as katherine Gordon's collection. These bittersweet poems awaken the primal urges in our sould to return to nature. The wild abandonment of her half-century abode in a sacred valley with birds, flowers, ancient rock, foxes, and wolves cannot equal the cool austerity of modern retirement living.

Review by Chris Faiers

the free spirit must not be caged for Katherine L. Gordon (on reading her "Caution: Deep Water'' Dear Katherine, this may be your best book yet your most important story the prisoning of a shaman spirit in a 'progressive' Canadian retirement home your saddest book, too it's all here - readers will feel your loss of the spirit visitors the ferny spreadings and season changes in your Spirit Valley A too true cautionary tale first word in your title
Caution: Deep Water

I, too, left my spirit valley
retreated to a small village lot
but your wisdom decrees
when the retirement home beckons

swim - swim far, far out
into Lake Ontario
this body will sink
but the spirit owl shaman
who invaded me long ago

will rise and fly
deep water is not the realm
for free spirits

Chris Faiers

Book Review to Come

Book Review to Come

Book Review to Come

Book Review to Come


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