by Sadie McCarney
Published by University of Regina Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95 ISBN 9-780889-776500
I've reviewed hundreds of books over the decades, and have developed a kind of ritual before I read a single word of the text proper. Today Charlottetown poet Sadie McCarney's first book, Live Ones, is under inspection.
A book is a reverent thing. Firstly, I turn it in my hands, and study the front and back covers. McCarney's slim cream-coloured volume is adorned with a small purple graphic, Winged Skull / Memento Mori, by artist Susan Crawford. What does this image suggest about the poems? There will be sorrow - quite possibly death - addressed within these pages. I flip to the back, read the publisher's blurb, any other blurbs (usually provided by accomplished writers), and biographical notes about the author. Here I learn that McCarney's book "grapples with mourning, coming of age, and queer identity against the backdrop of rural and small-town Atlantic Canada." First books often cast a wide net.
Next I check the author's birth year (just curious), if available; her Acknowledgments (where these poems previously appeared - impressive); and finally, I scan the individual titles in the Contents. Titles interest me. They can provide insight into general themes, style, and mood. Three titles leap out: "Answer and Be Entered to Win," (first poem); "$90K Victorian, Sold As Is;" and "Fairy Tale in the Supermarket." But I don't leap to these pages: writers and editors specifically order the poems, and I respect that they should be read as presented.
Houses, families, small towns, youth, illness, "A teacup of ticks" and "A foundered rowboat full of rain." The 1992-born author of these unflinching poems - varied in style and content - should be proud of her first book.