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About this book
- Long listed for the 2021 Raymond Souster Award!
Meredith Quartermain’s Lullabies in the Real World is a sequence of poems about a train journey from West Coast to East Coast that invokes a patchwork of regions, voices and histories. Her language zings with train rhythms as she unfolds a complex conversation with poets such as bpNichol and Robin Blaser.
This collection reflects and refracts Canada from diverse angles, and challenges colonizing literatures such as the Odyssey and various canonical British and US voices. As it moves from west to east, the book journeys back in time to interrogate historical events such as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the exclusion of Acadians. It ends by imagining a time before or outside colonization.
Rich, playful and confrontational, Lullabies in the Real World widens the poetic lens of poetry to investigate the place of a colonial nation in history, and the place of a poet vis-à-vis the voices of other poets.
EXCERPT FROM LULLABIES IN THE FREE WORLD:
On a pushing shifting thought-train
cross the delta into mountains
mark the trampled snow
follow, don’t follow, make it new
follow the tracks the breath prints
foretellers’ rails down a rabbit hole
blood at a votive pit, a slashed throat
speak, Holy Forester
speak, Horseman Martyrologist
speak of the Ill-, the Disunhoused,
unfed, under bridge’s
fan of guy wires lacing concrete ribbon
over silver river, hulk of an old bridge
for three years cutters disappeared it
piece by piece, bartender sez to twilit dome car
on The Canadian whatever is that
stolen land of sawmills
cutting, cutting, cutting trees
to shrink-wrapped two-by-fours
out of key with her time
wringing Kootenay from Camelot
she fished for obstinate rhymes
wander, Odyssea, outpost prisoner
train at Corrections Canada Mission
impossible message self-destruckle
chain-linked custodial living-unit
dream of Horseman lullabies,
dream of VIA cook poet Erín
frying eggs in galley car
then writing Furious
writing Pillage Laud
writing O Cidadán
"Playful and serious, waving to bpNichol, Robin Blaser, and Homer, Meredith Quartermain questions and elicits the classic cross-Canada poetic journey. Her cut-ups and substantiations, echoes and plot decoys, rhythmic clickings, bilanguaged mashups and toponomastic calibrations bring us a joyous un-epic, full of Learning Coordinators, museums, watercourses, city streets, and the inside/outside of identity and weather, historical and new."
"Meredith Quartermain torques the fabric of language to move us across the Canadian landscape between train tracks, tanneries, and graffiti tags with the rhythm of a dancing ear and a flaneuse’s critical eye. These are poems made of breath, rifts, and music, at once impressionistic and precise. They unsettle history and make us party.”
"Ride the Quartermain line. Steam across Canada on the milkiest of runs with this guide, alert always to the particular ecological, historical, and literary strata of places. With language as its engine, Lullabies goes irrepressibly off the rails at every turn, and in those detours shows us where we live.”
"In Lullabies in the Real World, Meredith Quartermain takes us 'backwards,' by train, along the literal tracks laid down by the colonial enterprise that made Canada. Her poems shush and clunk to us as we move across over-storied territories, not to lull us to sleep but to wake us out of false knowing. Her sound-songs challenge our attachment to colonial place names and histories, spinning new yarns of possibility to unknow, unremember and unharm. Quartermain's earnest unmappings help us imagine a futurity 'before sixty-second minutes,' in fuller harmony with the lands' long histories."
“Meredith Quartermain’s new collection of poems … puts colonization under the literary microscope.”
"While imagining a time before or without colonization, the collection also challenges colonizing literatures such as the Odyssey, along with various British and U.S. voices that make up the literary canon." full review
"Quartermain delights in wordplay, rhythm and rhyme, although she never holds any of these for long, making the poems musical and wild even as they refuse to stay still for too long... Despite her dark materials, Quartermain's poems gleam." full review
"This is a kind of anti-epic, challenging and provocative." full review
"Quartermain writes of an array of diverse voices, activities and actions set aside by the thin lines of acknowledged history that her poems work to claim, re-claim and set back into conversation, collecting them together into a book-length collaged portrait of a landscape both real and imagined, official and unacknowledged." full review
"Lullabies in the Real World is an urgent and bracing book. It is frank and artful, riddled with both hope and despair."