The city as poem: Little Hunger, Feria, and Nightmarker

Little Hunger. By Philip Kevin Paul. Nightwood, 96 pp, $16.95

Feria: a poempark. By Oana Avasilichioaei. Wolsak and Wynn, 104 pp, $17

Nightmarker. By Meredith Quartermain. NeWest Press, 112 pp, $14.95

Living in a city like Vancouver, with its constant production of the next new condo, promotes a process of forgetting. These three diverse poets take elements of the past and insert them into the coffee shops, courthouses, and parks of the city, so we can see where we are positioned now.

Philip Kevin Paul, in Little Hunger, uses family stories from a tradition of oral culture and places them across the landscape so we can feel the contemporary resonance of history. Even the rain transmits the past and inflects longing, as Paul writes in “Building My Home in Your Mind”:

The best time to listen intently to a wind-blown rain is when
you are completely apathetic or too heart-tender, yet exhume visions
of your half-naked father in threadbare gumboots and thin underwear,
rattling blindly in the late and early-morning hours
to upturn a garbage can under your bedroom window,
knowing how much you love the sound of rain—
this is the best time to accept the apologies he never spoke.

Our wanderings through the city take us next to the horse track, where Oana Avasilichioaei frenetically pulls us through a whirlwind of historical constructions in feria: a poempark. Here, the archive is a character who refuses to let the shininess of the new overwhelm. For example, in “The Gayway” she writes: “feria rips open / lies exposed / the park’s red heart / beating on the muddy earth”.

Meredith Quartermain’s Nightmarker engages with the layers of the city in its historical forms, but also in its everyday moments and its reveries on the future. It is epic in scope, filled with the details of daily wanderings.

The book splices urban moments with dream letters from “Geo, Vancouver”, examining the behaviour of humans moving through the city. As she writes in “Port City”: “Humans vs. ants. If ants controlled the world and not humans—could humans do something different than leaf-cutters building highways, hauling leaves, tunnelling streets, sculpting metropolises?”

Quartermain’s multifacted approach in Nightmarker is a poetic force “raging with life”.