All the Gold Hurts My Mouth & Caribou Run: Lorenzo poetry readings this week

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As autumn begins you might find yourself looking at the trees as they change colour, or be caught up in the way those dead leaves crunch under your feet while you walk to class, or captured by how those ever prevalent pumpkin spice lattes smell and taste.

In fact, you might be so taken with the sensory experiences of autumn that you may want to write poetry about it all.

If that’s the case, submitting to Vox (UNB Saint John’s creative arts journal) is definitely something that you should consider.

But if you prefer reading poetry to writing it, the next addition in the Lorenzo Reading Series has you covered.

All the Gold Hurts My Mouth by Katherine Leyton and Caribou Run by Richard Kelly Kemick are two incredible collections of poetry. But don’t be fooled; while both poets are reading at UNB Saint John on the same night, their books couldn’t possibly be more different.

All the Gold Hurts My Mouth focuses on feminist issues, such as the objectification of Women, negative body image, and rape culture. Given that most of the poems are told from a female viewpoint, this collection may appeal more to Women than Men.

Despite this, Leyton didn’t write this collection with only female readers in mind. She wrote it to get her message across to male readers, as well.

“Since I was very young I’ve been acutely aware of representations and treatments of Women that are considered ‘normal’— but that I find highly disturbing. I think poetry is particularly suited to changing people’s perceptions—to showing a reality they may not have been able to see before,” she explained.

“I was driven to express my own reality in the hopes that it might make certain readers pause and reflect on how damaging certain behaviours and representations are to Women.”

Readers should be mindful when picking up this collection, though – mature content is to be expected. For example, “The Misogynist” is a poem about a Woman’s paranoia that she is going to be raped, and the speaker in “Photograph” is posing for pornography.

Of course, it is the very seriousness of these mature subjects that makes Leyton’s poetry so deeply powerful.

Readers will be captured by the emotional tone of the book; each poem is swimming in the pain and uncertainty that goes along with being a Woman in our modern, media obsessed world. She writes of emotional situations that any young woman with a social media account, or who has ever flipped through a fashion magazine, will relate to.

“Many of the poems in All the Gold focus on the overwhelming pressure put on Women to objectify themselves, and also deal with how the speaker internalizes and acts on that pressure, and the harm that self-objectification can have,” Leyton said.

“Ideally, I’d love if this collection made people pause and think about the effects of the hyper objectification and sexualization of Women.  If they’re the type who’s already thinking about that – and are maybe angry about it – then I hope it gives them a sense of relief and strength in knowing they aren’t alone in how they feel.”

If intense subject matter like All the Gold is not the type of poetry you’re looking for, Caribou Run might be.

In Kemick’s collection, readers will find 87 pages of poems about caribou. Yes, you read that correctly – 87 pages of poetry solely about every Canadian’s favourite gangly, antlered animal.

“I had originally wanted to write about reindeer,” Kemick explained when asked why he chose this topic. “Personally, I’m in love with the whole North Pole mystique. Unfortunately, the collection was dependent on government funding, and I was told that you only get funding if you’re writing about Canadian people or animals. Caribou are the Canadian equivalent of reindeer.”

If readers are worried that they may get bored reading that many poems about such a narrow topic, they should fear not. While the collection shares one theme, the poems are all incredibly variant and Caribou Run features some of the most entertaining poetry they will ever read. Boys and girls, young and old, can all find something interesting in this collection.

Some of Kemick’s poems, like “Crossing (Thetis Lake)”, are informative pieces that educate the reader about the migrating patterns of caribou. Others are just downright hilarious.

Take “Genesis 1:24”, for example. It portrays God in the act of creating the caribou, but Kemick presents God as a scruffy man running on very little sleep, with dirty Tupperware containers strewn everywhere. He doodled a rough draft of the caribou because He “thought it would keep his mind off his spat with Lucifer”.

While some may not appreciate this not-so-almighty, struggling artist version of God, it had me snickering the whole way through. Kemick’s portrayal of the Creation process was incredibly witty, and it was a very clever way of writing another caribou poem – which he said became a challenge for him after a while.

“About thirty pages into the book I just couldn’t do it anymore,” he stated. “So what I did was start writing poems about other antlered animals. Elk, moose, deer, mountain goats. You can really write a poem about anything! Once I’d written these other poems (in my notebook I called them the “other-antlers”), I went back and changed all the animals to caribou. It was an incredibly cathartic experience.”

In the end, that difficult process definitely paid off. Kemick’s creativity truly knows no bounds; readers will be astonished by just how many poems he was capable of turning out – about caribou, of all possible things!

I highly recommend giving both collections a try. Poetry can be a great break from all of that (potentially boring) assigned reading that you have, and both books will really make you think – be it about the issues women are facing in a modern, media dominated world, or the impact humanity is having on the survival of a species so deeply rooted in our Canadian culture.

 

Both Katherine Leyton and Richard Kelly Kemick will be speaking about their poetry collections on October 4 in the Ganong Hall Lecture Theatre at 7:00pm. Everyone is welcome to attend, and encouraged to speak to the authors about their work after the readings.