Today’s bookish chatter: featuring Cornelia Hoogland’s Woods Wolf Girl and two snack-sized servings of Daniel Griffin’s Stopping for Strangers and Tony Burgess’ Idaho Winter.

Wolsak & Wynn, 2011

Cornelia Hoogland’s Woods Wolf Girl is a page-turner of a poetry collection.

Even if you are already familiar with the roots of the Red Hiding Hood tale, told in these verses, the reader immediately recognizes that it persists because it remains relevant across generations.

And just as the old versions of this tale have a variety of endings, Cornelia Hoogland’s work spirals around the archetypal elements of the tale and readers realize that the outcome is uncertain.

This is not the child-friendly moral-soaked saccharine version of the story; there is something at stake in this tale, a transformation indeed, but its nature is unclear.

This cycle of poems is shared between three voices: Red, Mother, and the Woodsman.

“I could feel
pulsing, my wrist or maybe

my heart.”

There is smiling. Someone is leaning against the tree. Later, there is talk of consent.

“A girl walks into the woods and
trees! Of course trees —
she recognizes the plot. A way through…”

And that talk of consent? It’s actually not Red speaking, but the woodsman. That’s not language that concerns her, not just yet, anyway.

“Could be the thing that happens
is at its core

a need

composting inside you.”

What truly emerges from the belly of a wolf? What was forbidden? Was there a prince involved? The mother’s voice issues from a place of greater awareness, even when it is posing questions, but simultaneously it is distanced from the vibrancy of Red’s experiences.

Red is at the heart of this tale, but the resonance builds from the engagement between the characters and across the work; this seems to be the perfect sort of collection of poems for the reader who is more commonly found with a stack of prose narratives at hand.

Cornelia Hoogland’s Woods Wolf Girl: a retelling that pulls the archetypal into the everyday lives of girls and women and woodsmen.

Curious? There are podcasts of the poems here and there is an excerpt here.


Véhicule Press, 2011

In Daniel Griffin‘s ReLit nominated short story collection, I sampled two stories, the title story, “Stopping for Strangers” and the opening story “Promise”.

Realistic dialogue sweeps these stories along, all the pauses and fragments that make conversations credible without the tedium and repetition. The pacing is steady and the arcs restrained.

Everyday life – whether one brother visiting another with a child in tow, or two siblings driving to see their grandfather one last time before he dies – is interrupted by the unpredictable. “Wilderness begins at the end of every street.”

The question of motivation sometimes lurks, sometimes looms; family members disengage and strangers offer spontaneous confessions; individuals strike out at the world and the returning blow is startling, disorienting.

Quotation: “She might have even had second thoughts that evening. That’s the way she operates. Impulse and second thoughts.” (74)

From Véhicule Press (Esplanade Books imprint)


ECW Press, 2011

In Tony Burgess’ Idaho Winter, I read the first seven chapters, knowing that last year I planned to read only a sample of Ravenna Gets and ended up reading the entire collection.

Idaho Winter is also a remarkably compelling work, one which is best suited to reading in a gulp. Because after seven chapters? That’s no place to stop.

What is evident, however, even from such a sample, is that Idaho Winter is driven by the author’s desire to understand the connections between people, including the connection between author and reader. Short chapters, stark prose: there is a clear invitation to the reader to settle in for a story.

A story of defiance: “A pushing back of a darkness that no one has ever pushed at before. A wonderful, criminal liberty to love that which has been so viciously called unlovable.”

It’s Tony Burgess, writing of the defiance but also of the viciously unlovable, Idaho Winter, a boy named for a potato. Readers, settle in: the writer is at work.

Quotation: “He closes his eyes to feel it, the warmth of her words. He can picture the words, between his shoulders, under his chest; her words, soft and buttery and happy somehow, good words sitting close to his heart.” (30)

From ECW Press

This week’s Weekend Sampler, inspired by this year’s ReLit Awards, includes Woods Wolf Girl (Wolsak & Wynn), several chapters of Tony Burgess’ Idaho Winter  and two short stories from Daniel Griffin‘s Stopping for Strangers (ECW Press)

What are you reading this weekend?