Home of Sudden Service is a sad and scary book of punk rock villanelles and sonnets about delinquency.
Set in Anyvalley, North America, Home of Sudden Service centres around the experiences of young people growing up in the suburbs. The contrast of elegant poetic forms with the colloquial, often harsh language of suburban teens makes for a compelling and engaging achievement.
Bachinsky creates a gothic landscape that will be familiar to anyone who’s visited the suburbs. Here, young Brownies dance, learn to sew and get badges in a series of eerie rituals, and smalltown girls settle down early. Murder, lust, teen pregnancy and a young man’s disappearance are all discussed with a matter-of-fact, dispassionate voice.
But this world is not without humour and hope. Home of Sudden Service concludes with "Drive," a series of fifteen sonnets about the poet’s trip across Canada with her sister — and out of the setting of their youth.
The Octopus and Other Poems follows a girl who wants to decode the world. She searches for the patterns and codes in everything, trying to decipher music, travel, family, love, loss. Through first waltzes, first sailing trips and first tattoos, the young woman tries to understand the universe, and herself. But it's a world in which possible role models range from Sigourney Weaver in Aliens to Roberta Bondar to Princess Leia. Explanations for the world, and human behaviour, always seem wanting.
The tension between girl and world culminates in the long poem "The Octopus". In this poem, former lovers debate the merits of searching for extraterrestrial life. He considers it a futile and wasteful endeavour, particularly given that there's “alien“ life we don't understand right here on earth— like the octopus. She, on the other hand, comes to realize her enjoyment of the search isn't about aliens at all, but about the pleasure of simply hoping for something new, something inexplicable and spectacular.
This dark, irreverent, funny, and surprising first collection asks—what can be known, and what will always be alien?
What You Can't Have is a study in longing. From children who yearn for a knowledge and experience elusive to them, to adolescents who struggle with hidden desires, to adults unprepared for the world built around them, Smith lends a quiet grace to his subjects’ struggles to satisfy their needs.
His spare images build an abacus of human emotion, a measuring stick of our accomplishments, frailties, and desires. Men are “slope-shouldered, soft/in places no one would suspect”, children discover a world which has trouble providing for them, and old men hope for nothing more than “another day’s weather”. These are poems which complicate their own simplicity- what has been lost is a comfort in the face of what one has never had.
With a candour that demands attention, Smith’s poems of desire and need lay bare our attempts to satisfy ourselves.
A bold collection, What You Can’t Have describes a world full of tenderness, wit and compassion, without apology.