Ceremony of Touching


By Karen Shklanka

Published by Coteau Books

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$16.95 ISBN 9-781550-506679

It's gratifying to possess some knowledge of where, both literally and metaphorically, a poet is writing from. The first piece in B.C. poet, doctor and dancer Karen Shklanka's second book of poetry, which originated as her master's thesis, is a touchstone. It introduces us to "the wounded soul of a doctor" who finds repose on Salt Spring Island among the "scent of salted forest, wrap of humidity/from logs returning to earth and reassurance/from thickets of salal flowers cupped in prayer." It's a strong, unique and elemental premise.

In many ways I feel this seven-sectioned book is not unlike one long prayer, or at least a meditation. Meditation upon one's profession, personal relationships, nature and human nature, how "everything is connected," and upon the atrocity of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The section that recounts the historical event (from a fictional tail gunner's perspective (I'm thankful for the poet's extensive notes on the poems) is titled Flight Log, and it's no small deal that it was long-listed for the CBC Poetry Prize. More interesting to me, however, are the numerous poems in which one can almost feel the poet's personal grappling about the here and now.

Shklanka makes excellent poetry of her personal life and her profession, and she doesn't shirk from the stereotype of doctors as gods: "We have important things to do/and we will fit them into time's tight dresses."

This book is available at your local bookstore or from the Saskatchewan Publishers Group www.skbooks.com.

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