Reviewed by Joanna M. Weston
This is a young voice and a good voice. There is joy recorded here, the rough edges of living not yet tarnished by experience and age. The reader rides the see-saw between childhood and maturity through Leedahl’s poems. Her vocabulary is strong and varied, her images used with perception and originality.
The poems record Leedahl’s growing up, from childhood with her brother Logan, to university, and work, through ‘a sporadic diary, wrapped in plastic in case of rain’ (13). Her memories are to be kept out of harm’s way, even the language of childhood is to be lost:
…You and I lived childhood on the moon.
Towel the spoken
into cracks where words, now, remain
absent. Light convulses in silence
Vaccilation between youth and adulthood is apparent in ‘Castor and Pollux Linked in the Sky’: ‘We made love in the light on Sunday // …squeezed it in // before a spoonful of birthday cake // at your grandma’s’ (28).
She reveals the kaleidoscope of growing up in that making love is an interval before joining a family birthday party, with evocation of cake and ice-cream.
In ‘Basement Archives,’
Lisa, you played unplugged
electric guitar, and I watched
myself in your bifold closet mirror,
both ignoring the party you’d started upstairs.
cranberry-scented dinner candles. (31)
With these few lines, sound, sight, and smell are invoked: the poet watches the guitar player while a party pounds overhead and scented candles burn: the paraphernalia of a contemporary youthful party.
Leedahl has a unique gift with imagery, as with ‘Their words are caped in steam,// faint onto the wind like dandelion snow’ (19). There is an immediate sense of dandelion seeds drifting lightly on the air. Or, ‘Sun slaps river at 2:00 pm // and it’s all birthday sparklers, // light undulates like liquid tinfoil // on water’ (38). In this way she captures the sudden fall of sunlight on the South Saskatchewan River.
Then ‘A calm blue sun tumbles // into a neighbouring city, skips stones // of light across the belly of a basking cat’ (29) and the reader moves from the over-arching blue sky to the nearness of the sleeping cat, to be reminded of the macro and micro worlds that we inhabit, the cosmos and our immediate surroundings. The same sense is captured in reverse with
…I can blend a white plastic bag
between the bare love of branches
into the old grey
mattress sky. (46)
Her grasp of the language and society of today comes through loud and clear in poems like ‘Boyfriend Box’:
…Strawberry car freshener
fighting to mask hockey equipment stench;
the rink smell that became an aphrodisiac. (25)
Yet she reveals knowledge of the ancient myths when, in ‘Stitching Wings’ there is a hint of the story of Icarus:
…He sews wings
for people to hang from; they never fit,
are never beautiful enough.
He concentrates hard on being light
like nothing exists, and takes flight
on homemade feathers. (27)
Her use of words is rich, occasionally running away on her, as in ‘Nighttime mechanics’:
Later at the desolate beach I crumple
backwards into a mid-May lake.
Infinitesimal stalactites shatter
from the ice-husk. This melt-melody
releases nature’s highest octave. (26)
From beach beside a lake to stalactites shattering to melt-down of music in five lines stretches imagery perhaps too far. Leedahl’s poetry is not perfect: there are occasional grammatical mistakes and awkward line-breaks, but the imagery and vocabulary give the poems a unique and exciting voice, one to be watched with interest in the future.
Joanna M. Weston has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty years. Has two middle-readers, The Willow Tree Girl and Those Blue Shoes; also A Summer Father, poetry, published by Frontenac House of Calgary, all in print.