If there was ever any doubt that British Columbia contains a considerable number of poets, Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary B.C. Poetry—with its roster of 108 B.C. poets—will surely set the record straight. This epic anthology, which tours the entire west coast, brings all of the up-and-coming poets to the forefront.
Reading like a road trip across B.C. with plenty of sights worth stopping for, the anthology is a delight to pick through. And while it has a few poets who make the book feel like the lengthy journey from Kamloops to Smithers (giving the reader that familiar numbness in the butt), it still manages to highlight some of B.C.’s best current poets.
There should be no reason to review an anthology that includes the likes of Kate Braid, Rachel Rose, Betsy Warland, Sean Horlor, Rita Wong and Daphne Marlatt. Yet despite this impressive crop of poets, many reviewers were dismissive and critical of this anthology as it pushed a strong blend of new and established writers. This mixture is by no means a downfall—the editors’ effort towards presenting something new is an unexpected quality for an anthology, and I found myself folding over the poems of some of the unknown poets more than those by the known.
One of those lesser known poets of note is Colin Fulton, whose ability to both make words new and strike an image is impressive, all the more so considering he was only 21 years old when his poem “title” was first published.
Another notable in the anthology is Rob Taylor, who proves he is a contender for best amongst the emerging Vancouver poets. His striking narrative-driven piece, “Grey Diamond Wallpaper”, is a prime example of his ability to keep a reader lingering on the final words of his poems.
The shortfall of the collection—and there’s always a shortfall in these anthologies—is the abundance of poems that refer to either biblical characters, Greek or Roman gods or—to complete the list of clichés in a poem learned in Lit 12—mirrors and reflective surfaces. Unfortunately, these poems keep the anthology from moving past the other examples of this dusty style of poetry that occupy my shelf.
The importance and selling point of this book lies in its forward-thinking poets. This book shows the brute strength of poets and poetry culture within B.C. For whoever thinks that poetry is fizzling out in B.C., I keep this book with me to slap them in the face with.
This story appears in Poetry Is Dead issue 1. If you like it online, you'll love it in print. Subscribe Now »