Describing the Mundane Around Us | Review of “Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway” by Alexandra Oliver (2013) Biblioasis

We stumble through our daily lives but do we give it a serious thought? Is what we go through every day really that important or is it even dangerous? That is the thoughts Alexandra Oliver makes us consider as one reads her collection of poetry called Meeting Tormentors in Safeway.

Test Cape (page 28)

 

I’ve landed on a way to try you out

and gauge your mettle. Please put on this cape.

(It’s far too late to think about escape).

I’d like you now to venture out without

 

your other clothes. The cape will have to do.

Go down to Omar’s Maxi Milk and buy

a pack of Belmont Milds, and would you try

to see if they have raisin bread? Milk too.

 

When you reach across to get the change,

contrive a little conversation. Muse

about the way the Raiders always lose.

Say thank you. Take your time and rearrange

 

your stuff inside the bag. And please try not

to panic. You’ll need Herculean force

to pull it off. You are aware, of course,

it’s August, and it’s criminally hot,

 

and Omar has that huge electric fan

he borrowed from the film set just last week.

If you are not arrested as a freak,

I’ll know you are no ordinary man.

I was introduced to Oliver’s work in the Summer 2014 reading edition of The Walrus Magazine (Link to my review here) where her poem Watching the Cop Show in Bed was published. The simple and profound observations she put in that poem exists also in her book, causing the mind’s eye to open to observe reality in a new light.

Ottawa Walk-In Clinic Waitng Room, 9PM – Page 12

The girl at the desk lives in fear of the phone.

The boy in the chair keeps his foot on a plant.

An old lady mouths her novenas, alone;

I read our phone number out like a chant.

The college kid barks in the crook of his arm.

The bum takes his sock off to check the infection.

A poster describes the contagion and harm

of love under bridges without one’s protection.

While cold-hearted bulbs keep an eye on the gloom,

our son will not take his prescription of fear

but joyfully buzzes in loops round the room

because he’s been told there’s a bug in his ear.

 

It is brilliant how these simple words and phrases makes one think – and think hard. The phrasing is bright and lyrical making the imagery easy to remember.

Modern Camera – Page 53

This is the setting for when you’re inside.

This is the setting for candlelight.

This is the setting for sunrise and sunsets

This is for portraits of people at night.

 

This is the setting for servings of food.

This is the setting for things under glass.

This is the setting for files and documents.

This is the setting for flowers and grass.

 

This is the setting for watching explosions.

This is the setting for watching the match.

This is the setting to hold to the spyhole

And see children cry when you’ve fastened the latch.

 

This is the setting for trembling hands.

This is the setting for earthquakes and fire.

This is the one for the tyrant-in-training

(You cower below them and tilt the lens higher).

 

This is the setting for rocks and hard places.

This is the setting for blood and ablution.

And this button here is the one that you press

When shooting yourself is the only solution.

Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway by Alexandra Oliver is a profound and eye-opening read. A reader is awakened to the world around themselves by these poems and ponders the ways of their existence.

Link to Alexandra Oliver’s website

Link to Biblioasis page for Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway

 

 

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