Alison Pick's Question & Answer
is a surprisingly accomplished first collection of poems. The work is divided into three sections: "Q & A," "(Still) Life," and "The River Reflected." "Q & A" consists of a series of poems titled with questions that come from the poet's literary compatriots and possible influences, including Gwendolyn MacEwan, Patrick Lane, and others. It's hard to resist a poem that opens with this quote from Mary Oliver, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" These are highly original poems that display an acute vision: "How / the umbrella, motionless bird, / stands on one leg by the door."
With titles like "Fear 1944" and "Prague 1939," the second section makes a poetic descent into the history of the author's Jewish ancestry. The reader is introduced to her father and grandmother as the poet explores the weighty nature of fertility and memory through a series of still lifes. In the end, the memories of what was and what couldn't be cannot be fully revealed: "Cherries must keep the truth / to themselves. Like smug red buddhas they hang." The final section includes a number of poems that read like scenes from a novel. However, the language itself and the poet's eye are the collection's true strengths: "the lake stretches out / under a duvet of fog" in "The Water's Skin," and "the shadow that muscles through current / like dreams muscling through sleep" in "River." This is an excellent debut. --Mark Frutkin
About the Author
Alison Pick is the winner of the the Alfred Bailey Manuscript Prize and the Grain Short Prose Poem Contest. She studied at the University of Guelph and was writer in residence at the Wallace Stegner House, S.K. She now lives in St. John's, Newfoundland and travels frequently to Ontario.