K.I. Press,
Types of Canadian Women
& of Women Who Are or
Have Been Connected with Canada, Vol. 2

(Gaspereau Press, 2006)

This is a marvelous book that drew me in from the moment I received it. Author K.I. Press presents here a collection of poems inspired by an illustrated biographical dictionary -- similarly titled -- published in 1903. In this "second volume," Press creates fictional biographies mostly in the form of prose poems. These are accompanied by old-time black-and-white photos of women, the kind labeled as "instant ancestors" at antique shops.

The juxtaposition of the images of these often dour women in their high-necked blouses and poems -- which purport to reveal their secret thoughts and adventures -- creates a dissonance that never fails to delight. As imagined by Press, many of these women act and think in ways that contradict the mores of their age. One of my favorite poems is "A Crack Tennis Player Before Her Marriage." Here, a virginal bride-to-be recounts a courtside erotic encounter involving wild strawberries and a man (not her fiance) made all the more mysterious by his silence.

In other instances, the poems relate experiences that begin conventionally enough then turn surreal. Take "Her Horse Killed Under Her," in which the narrator relates how she fell off her horse, a trauma that, to her shock, changes her life forever: "I discovered my situation -- I had become a man, and dear reader, what a man!" Such a metamorphosis fails to hold her back, for she joins a men's riding club "although they did not like it." The photo next to this poem depicts a woman in a feathered hat and a black vest over a dark heavy dress. Her careful pose belies the independence and spirit of her interior monologue.

Canadian literature intrigues me, although I must confess my exploration is still not very well mapped. I am certainly glad to have read this unusual, humorous, often poignant book.

by Karen Trimbath
14 April 2007

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