Today's book of poetry: Whisky Sour City. Edited by Vanessa Shields. Black Moss Press. Windsor. Ontario. 2013.
There are no author notes in this collection, Alistair MacLeod, who taught in Windsor for many years, writes the Foreword. I am President of the club that thinks Alistair MacLeod can walk on water, and that he is our very best writer. If he is taking the time to write the Foreword - then this is an anthology that I'm interested in.
Generally I don't enjoy anthologies, I might even have an unreasonable bias against them, totally unjustified, of course. But Vanessa Shields has done some fine selecting for this volume that celebrates all things Windsor, Ontario.
On The Line (Ford's, GM, Chrysler's)
I sewed the seats for the cars and
each stitch had to be perfect.
Not like today. Everything done by
We sewed it all by hand and the foreman would
come and measure it, make sure each stitch
was exactly the same. The exact measurement and
that's how we did it.
You had to have nerves of steel
to work in the factory. Someone always
watching over your shoulder, telling you what to do.
But no one could break me.
I hadn't been there one month and
my boss comes up to me and says, where'd you learn
to sew like that? Cause all my stitches were perfect,
exactly all measured out perfectly.
I just looked up at him and said, I been sewing all my life!
And at the end of the month, when I looked at my
paycheque, it was already there, you know, the
raise you got after 3 months. But I
got it after the first cause I was so good.
A course, all the other girls were mad as hell cause
they didn't think it was fair.
Too bad for them!
-- Lisa Pike Fiorindi
Having lived in Windsor and worked at Ford (Engine Plant #2), for two years, I have an emotional attachment to the city, an affection. Like every anthology there are a few weak links but Shields has peppered this collection with gems. Robert Earl Stewart's Twilight Cincinnati from his collection Something Burned Along The Southern Border is top notch, Terri Ann Carter's Dante and the Boys Drop in to the Caboto Club for an Evening of Penne and Poetry is as delightful as the title suggests,
Dante and the Boys Drop in to the
Caboto Club for an Evening of
Penne and Poetry
(for Samantha Alfini)
Dante, Galileo, Caboto
stopping by the Caboto Club
for an evening of metaphor and tortellini.
in the journeys to hell, the poems
that conjure hollowed eyes
and sunken skulls, the burning inferno
of long married lives - He loves the spicy
vezione verro and prosciutto with melon.
Galileo expresses his penchant
for sky, the sun dangling from a golden
chain around his neck, always ready for a salad
Calabrese style, tomatoes like half moons.
He waits for final lines,
like fireworks on the dark horizon.
Caboto, enthralled with epics
of travel, the diaries of long road trips,
bizarre customs - compares the pastas
served by winsome waitresses.
He loves to dabble in the written word
himself, knows the time it takes
to fill a leather notebook.
After liquors of Amaretto, Frangelico, Sambuca -
I see the three ascending the grand
spiral staircase, pursued by a security guard
who wants to check their I.D.
They scurry down the gleaming hallway,
life their feet, begin the flight
through ceiling tiles, their hinged wings
beating back summer air, their bodies
becoming stars, shining down on Parent Street.
- Terri Ann Carter
Eugene McNamara gives us this lovely treat:
Early Autumn at the Market
A table of various squash like
wizened men in turbans head
to head whispering
A final load of sweet corn
A bee among the tomatoes
Those dusky purple plums
which say autumn regret
- Eugene McNamara
I found Mary Kate Brogan's poem Newly Born disquietingly charming and I guess that is the tone I find for this book, disquietingly charming. It's not a bad feeling at all.
Windsor - A Love Story
Arrive by taxi after midnight at a Dufferin duplex.
My Palestinian landlord fast asleep.
Baba's watchdog fails again.
Twenty-somethings making halfway love in a stairwell
They do that, you know.
Inhibitions lost in a city
Foreign to us both.
Now, with the baby in the back seat,
I can map our love in the landmarks of this city
I couldn't wait to run a mile from.
Toronto-bound from the start.
Wyandotte's Arab markets,
Smells that remind me of my Grandmother
Made you raise your eyebrows, purse our lips.
Garlicky shawarma after a night at the casino,
Drinking in Voodoo on Ouellette
Sin crushing me beneath you.
I hid you in the Leddy Library
From Baba's watchful eyes.
An overnight stay amongst the classics
Reading an analogue in Anne Frank.
Riverfront festivals, a mic in your hand
While young people drink from plastic cups
Swaying to the rhythms.
The GM tower witnessing the modesty young couples
Shed with clothing and inhibitions.
The night advances then retreats.
The smell of pot wafting through the air.
"It was a stop on the underground railroad," I say.
Still harbouring runaways looking for
Freedom and love and who knows what else.
- Donya Tag-El-Din
Donya Tag-El-Din's fine poem serves as both a poetic introduction to this collection and to this Canadian city that I love. It is a good introduction to both.
The following is a list of the poets whose work appear in Whisky Sour City.
Debbie Okun Hill
Mary Kate Brogan
Sarah Faye Morris
Robert Earl Stewart
Karen P. Oulette
Mary Ann Mulhern
Dawn Marie Kresan
R. Patrick James
Lisa Pike Fiorindi
Terry Ann Carter
Dorothy James Kavanaugh
Kim Conklin Hutchison
Mary Ann Mulhern
John B. Lee