Autopsy of a Turvy World by Sheri-D Wilson

Sheri-d WilsonWilson, Sheri-D. Autopsy of a Turvy World. Calgary: Frontenac House, 2008.

Completed: 18 October 2010

Autopsy of a Turvy World is Sheri-D Wilson’s latest collection of poems.  She has published six previous poetry collections. I have read a couple of her previous collections.  This volume I found to be darker than her previous work. There are poems dealing with death, murder, fear, isolation.  It wasn’t until later in the volume that her humour began to show through.

The first poem in the collection, “I Visited the Bridge of Your Ghost on a Full Moon Morning” seems to be an homage to a child who was killed by a group of woman in Vancouver.  Sad to say, I have only a hazy recollection of this incident.

“Today, I came to see the bridge of your ghost
like a monument built over mortality
and the weeds and the flowers
grow below the solid line, like capsized dreams.
And I went to the water’s edge
where they left you face down
in the mud,
drowned and clubbed to death.”

In “Toronto Taxi Cab” we are confronted by a life in fear.  “She was attacked / three times in her life, / two were / cab drivers.”  The woman finds a wallet on the seat of a cab.  The driver is unresponsive and the woman panics, jumps from the cab and flees.  Was there something to be frightened about?  Possibly.  In our culture of fear we inoculate our children to never get into cars with strangers but as adults we casually get into cars (cabs) with complete strangers.  Does the woman have reasonable grounds for fear?  She has been attacked by cab drivers before.  The life of fear portrayed is an alien one for me and remains incomprehensible to me.  Then, I’ve never been attacked once, let alone three times.

There is much in poetry that I just don’t get. One thing I do enjoy is when new linkages or images are created by the poets words.  In “You Need to Get Your Head Examined” there is a very nice image created:  / The Windows are sky high / and they all have bars / like prison, a downtown / apartment or a cage. / The juxtaposition of the image of a prison with a downtown apartment and a cage appeals to me.  Which is which? Who are the prisoners?  Who is in control?  If you have to have bars on your apartment then is the apartment a cage or a prison?  How is the home different from the prison? Wilson is again touching on fear.  In the context of this poem she is also speaking to madness.  “We are here to dance”, but are instructed “to dance without aggression.”  “Here” is the psych ward of a hospital.

Later in the collection, Wilson returns to her characteristic humour.  “A Slippery slope: Anti-Aging and the Skiing-Peeing Story, all in one” had me chuckling away as wily age meets naive youth.  Or in “Borderline Neuroses” we have an encounter with airport security and a pair of nose-hair clippers.  Security hysteria goes over the top into silliness.  Been there, seen that.

As a spoken word poet I find that Wilson’s poetry is best heard.  The rhythms in her poems are the rhythms of speech. To get a better experience of her poetry and the rhythms of her speech, check out the video poems on her web site.  A personal favourite is “Spinsters Hanging in Trees”.  It is not part of this collection.  If you like it, have a look at The Sweet Taste of Lightning collection, the book or even better, the CD.

Sheri-D Wilson is a “poet, performer, film-maker, educator, producer and activist” along with playwright and the artistic director of the Calgary International Spoken Word Festival.  Based in Calgary, Sheri-D Wilson is an Alberta poet and is my 5th provincial poet.

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