They say books are on their way out – and who reads anyway, especially poetry? They say humans will either be done in by wars or melted down by climate change, or be replaced by cyborgs. They say a lot of things, and all are wrong. A rebellion against dehumanization is afoot and one of its sharpest weapons is poetry. Poetry is not dead or dying and never will be as long as there is a human spirit. And spirits are immortal. This author’s poetry proves it. Her poems are a cry from the human spirit saying: Look at me! I’m here! I am very much alive! The following excerpts are telling.
Carolyne Van Der Meer’s bio informs us that she is a Montréal-based journalist, a PR professional and a university lecturer. She has published several volumes of poetry, including an award-winning self-translated French version of her own work. And as SENSORIAL attests, she truly reveals herself through her poetry.
This slim volume, albeit not so slim for a collection of poems, is dedicated to the memory of Carolyne’s father, John (Johannes) Van Der Meer. Its dedication is not merely symbolic, since a third of the poems – the most revealing and the most tender – were inspired by her father’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
PART I: NAVIGATION is mostly set in Montréal and some rural areas. The word “homelessness” is a leitmotif in many of these stories, for each poem is the story of the struggle for survival by the marginalized denizens of an otherwise joyful city.
EPILEPSY, CORNER OF MCGILL AND ST-MAURICE
he lives on the street can’t walk a block
without a seizure
Our fucked-up system she says as we head to her Audi
that so many people struggle alone
Van Der Meer is not above being judgemental, and rightly so, as you’ll see.
STANLEY STREET CAFÉ, MONTREAL
The waiter tells him to leave
while other diners look on mute
Ah you have to work you have a job
Go wash your fucking dishes… This—
and he gestures
—is my living room, my kitchen… no one
can make me leave—
In PART II: EXPLORATION, the poet seeks respite from despair with exotic adventures like tea at Harrods, poetics in Manhattan and a cycle ride along Rivière-des-Prairies trails.
My husband tells me to cheer up
not long from now
we can buy that house in Tuscany
there is always some illusion of perfection
if it’ll get you through the day
Illusions, however, are just that, and reality firmly beckons. The author mainly devotes PART III: CONNECTION to her parents, and particularly to her father and the ravages caused by Parkinson’s. This section is not a grim litany of woes, however, but rather a paean to the connection that binds humans together.
WITH HER FATHER, LONG TERM-CARE HOME, TORONTO
They laugh again Help me lie down, he says
His body rigid, head not touching the pillow
Okay, dad, I love you
Then hears the words returned.
In SENSORIAL, Carolyne Van Der Meer has succeeded in making a case both for poetry and for human connection. I plan to reread this book long after the ducklings have outgrown their summer pond.