Collection reveals largesse of Planet Earth

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July 18, 2013

Poems from Planet Earth
Edited by Yvonne Blomer and Cynthia Woodman Kerkham
Leaf Press, 208 pages, $20

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

Planet Earth Poetry is a reading series at the Moka House in Victoria, and over the years many poets have offered their work to an appreciative audience. Editors Yvonne Blomer (who runs the reading series) and occasional host Cynthia Woodman Kerkham have assembled a diverse collection from over one hundred poets who have read, showcasing the richness of Planet Earth.

Patrick Lane, a star not only in the local poetry scene, but also in the poetry world at large, contributes both a poem and the introduction to the book. He explains the genesis of the series’ name, which is taken from P.K. Page’s poem “Planet Earth,” and notes that Page “is one of the masters, the progenitors of the poems that live among these pages.” Lane eloquently shows poetry’s importance: “We reside forever in this one precious moment. Life seethes around us. It lives, it dies, it lives again. A poem is at times our only stay against all that assails us.” Poems from Planet Earth presents an exuberant cacophony of voices examining uncountable facets of life.

Blomer and Kerkham had a monumental task in creating the volume; choosing how to organize the book must have been a challenge. The editors have opted for seven broad categories into which they have placed the poems, with a short introduction to each section: Life and Loss, Nature, Place, Love, Death and Hope, Music and Art, and Family. Obviously, many poems could be slotted into numerous categories. The volume also includes acknowledgements and biographies, so it’s a handy tool for further investigation. Curiously, the alphabetical contents at the beginning are by poet’s first name, rendering the list less helpful than it could be, but that is a minor quibble as the biographies are alphabetized by last name.

The voices contained include the well-known, such as Lane, Lorna Crozier, Jan Zwicky, Pamela Porter, Patrick Friesen, Patricia Young, and Sheri-D Wilson. But with so many contributors, most readers are sure to discover a new voice. And as over half of the poems are published for the first time in this volume, every reader will encounter something unfamiliar.

The forms vary enormously, with most being free verse, but closed forms such as the pantoum can be found (John Barton’s “Les beaux-arts, Montréal”) or the sestina (Tanis MacDonald’s “Sestina: Whiskey Canyon”). This volume does good job of showing the vastness of poetic approaches.

I’d recommend dipping into this book at random. It doesn’t matter if the poems are read in the order as presented. The content is a bit uneven, but with so much included, readers will get much of value. Kudos to Planet Earth Poetry for its continued celebration of poetry, and kudos to Blomer and Kerkham for creating this engaging and eclectic collection.

Candace Fertile is  Coastal Spectator’s poetry editor.  

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