I know practically nothing of poetry. Of course I have read some, at school, in anthologies forwarded by Margaret Atwood that I bought at the bookstore after waiting in line for 6 hours. I enjoyed much of it I’m pretty certain, but then there are course loads I can’t remember, which I think is probably a symptom of reading books that have been prescribed by a classroom syllabus. That being said, I never really followed through with poetry after that, choosing instead to view it as that pretty, delicate friend you smile at in the hallway but never really end up talking to much, even though you’ve always meant to.
Enter Emma Healey and her prose poetry mashup.
I was listening to Emma read for the second time this summer at a book launch where she launched into a piece about Canadian facts. And then a perfectly crafted mock-letter from the Ontario Student Loans Application center that my boyfriend made her sign and give him to take home (since he was in the middle of his own battle with those minions). After some light facegooglecreeping, I discovered that we went to the same school: Concordia University in the creative writing department on the 6th floor of the library building or whatever its real name was I can’t remember now. I never knew Emma while attending CU, but I can only imagine if I had, and if we had happened to share a writing workshop, I probably would have packed up my things, gone back to my Grey Nuns room, spread goat cheese on a baguette (because we didn’t have stovetops to make KD) and resign myself as a “writer” completely. Because I was not nor am I anything like Emma Healey. Because her book Begin with the End in Mind, a fusion of prose poetry from ARP Books, is as strange and as smart as it is relatable and has the contemplative quirky awareness that other young writer-things can only hope to achieve (and I know this because I’ve heard them…). I want to believe everything Healey writes as the exact version of the truth and fold myself into the pages of this little book and sleep there. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we were both orbiting the same strange post-secondary planet in the same lonely city at nearly the same time and her writing reads to me like everything that I used to know. Subjects like kitchens and apartment neighbours and a ubiquitous, personified “Work” that plagues us. As a 2 time shortlister for the Irving Layton poetry prize (2011, 2012) and the winner in 2010, Ms. Healey has ripped the bandaid off this non-poetry lover and proven that sometimes real writers do roll out from writing school. Though I can’t say much about the technique, or style or lyric of her work as I’m not versed in the ways of the rhythmical. I can say that her voice is one to be reckoned with and I will be on the lookout for more.