by Bren Simmers
“A beautifully nuanced look at the challenge of allowing ourselves to claim and be claimed by a place. In this year-long cycle of poems, Simmers brings the sharp focus of a naturalist’s eye to the urban everyday of the Vancouver neighbourhood for which the book is named. Text becomes mapping, observations become ecology, dates become narrative. The poems are both fierce and faltering; they experiment with form without ever losing the voice and vulnerability that make them compelling.”
Short-listed: City of Vancouver Book Award (2015)
Book DescriptionHastings–Sunrise is a love letter to a fleeting place and time. Bren Simmers’s second collection captures her old East Vancouver neighbourhood in the midst of upheaval. As it is colonized by tides of matching plaid and diners serving pulled-pork pancakes, condo developments replace the small businesses and cheap rentals that once gave the area its charm.
Much like opening a set of nesting dolls, leafing through the collection exposes further layers of depth and intimacy. Within the context of cultural change, Simmers explores the meaning to be found in everyday things: the making of a home, the life built from daily routines. At the same time, she reveals the dissonance that can occur between personal and large-scale change: “Twitter feed of melting sea ice, / colony collapse / while we picnic under pink ribbons, / kiss again like we mean it.”
Throughout the collection, the poet’s eye unfailingly lights on the perfect details to evoke a scene: “On Mr. Donair’s spit, / the earth rotates. Papal smoke emits / from Polonia Sausage, semis shunt / downtown.” Visual poems forming maps of Christmas lights and autumn colours further bring the Hastings–Sunrise neighbourhood to life, illustrating the interweaving of human and natural spaces and locating “home” in between.
Like a tree clothed in multicoloured yarn or a miniature house filled with free books, Hastings–Sunrise is a gift to readers, beautiful in its simplicity.