Ocean & A Brief Reincarnation of a Girl by Sue Goyette | Review

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

I read these two poetry collections by Sue Goyette for two different classes and I don't know what to say. I loved both of these so much. They convey such different tones, and tell such different stories, but they get you. Right in the heart place. Okay, let me tell you about them.

Book: Ocean

Author: Sue Goyette

Publisher: Gaspereau Press

Pages: 80 Pages

Format: Paperback (with french flaps!)

Source: Bought for class




The ocean has never had a biographer quite like Sue Goyette. Living in the port city of Halifax, Goyette’s days are bounded by the substantial fact of the North Atlantic, both by its physical presence and by its metaphoric connotations. And like many of life’s overwhelming facts, our awareness of the ocean’s importance and impact waxes and wanes as the ocean sometimes lurks in the background, sometimes imposes itself upon us, yet always, steadily, is. This collection is not your standard “Oh, Ocean!” versifying. Goyette plunges in and swims well outside the buoys to craft a sort of alternate, apocryphal account of our relationship with the ocean. In these linked poems, Goyette’s offbeat cast of archetypes (fog merchants, lifeguards, poets, carpenters, mothers, daughters) pronounce absurd explanations to both common and uncommon occurrences in a tone that is part cautionary tale, part creation myth and part urban legend: how fog was responsible for marriages, and for in-laws; why running, suburbs and chairs were invented; what happens when you smoke the exhaust from a pride of children pretending to be lions. All the while, the anthropomorphized ocean nibbles hungrily at the shoreline of our understanding,refusing to explain its moods and winning every staring contest. 


I've been living in Halifax for about 3 years now, and the ocean is very prevalent. But I had never seen anyone describe it and characterize it quite like Sue does. In Ocean, the ocean is not a force of good, or a force of evil -- it's both and everything in between. Ocean is a life force, allowing life, death, tradition, change, creation, and destruction to flow from it. While it is a collection of poems, all working to characterize the ocean and tell part of its history, it also works as a long poem, where each poem adds a little more to the history and fills out its character a little more. 

I'm not a huge poetry reader. Or, well, I wasn't. But that didn't matter. Poetry can sometimes create a sense that you need a background in it in order to access it, but Sue's poetry invite you right in. It's so accessible, but it still makes you work for it. Not everything is handed to you on a platter, but once you dedicate yourself to Ocean, it keeps on giving. I read this a month or so ago and I am still picking it up and flipping through it. 

5/5 Stars. Please pick this up, support a truly amazing Canadian poet, and get to know the ocean a bit more.






Book: The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl

Author: Sue Goyette

Publisher: Gaspereau Press

Pages: 64 Pages

Format: Paperback (with french flaps!)

Source: Bought for class




In 2006, a four-year-old Massachusetts girl died from prolonged exposure to a cocktail of drugs that a psychiatrist had prescribed to treat ADHD and bipolar disorder; her parents were convicted of her murder. In The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl, Sue Goyette strives to confront the senselessness of this story, answering logic’s failure to encompass the complexity of mental illness, poverty and child neglect (or that of our torn and tangled social ‘safety net’) with a mythopoetic, sideways use of image and language. Avoiding easy indignation, Goyette portrays the court proceedings’ usual suspects in unusual ways (the judge, the jury, the lawyers, the witnesses and the girl’s troubled parents), evokes the ghost of the girl, personifies poverty as a belligerent bully and offers an unexpected emblem of love and hope in a bear. Like the utterances of a Shakespearean fool, Goyette’s quirky, often counter-logical poems offer a more potent vision of reality than any documentary account, her eulogy for a girl society let down renewing the prospect for empathy and change. 

This one got me right in the heart place. This long poem focused on the court case surrounding a 4 year old girl who was killed by a cocktail of prescription drugs given to her by her parents and her doctor. This was heart-wrenching, and frustrating, and made me want to rip my hair out, but then you get to the ending and it all makes sense. Everything comes full circle and you're left feeling hopeful and redeemed. Sue's got a way with words, so even when you don't know what she's saying on an intellectual basis, she makes it so clear the emotions she conveying and you get it. The characterization of the parents and the courtroom, in direct contrast with the wide eyed curiosity and innocence of the little girl worked so beautifully with one another, and those 60+ pages flew by. I read this in one sitting, and would recommend doing the very same.

This was one of the first long poems i'd ever read beginning to end and it was really interesting to see the difference in reading poems, collections, and long poems. I loved that this one told a full story. I think i'd recommend this to people before Ocean, as this one was easier to get into.

Again, 5/5 Stars. 



Happy Reading!

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