#TPQ5: MELANIE JANISSE-BARLOW

Phil Levine

Specifically the poem ‘Belle River’ It speaks to a ‘fromness’ that is under my skin. My youth was spent in a dare jumping into the Detroit river. What is underneath the surface of the Detroit River still mystifies me. Brine is absolutely the correct word. I feel that this particular poem influenced my newest book ‘Thicket’ in a very significant way.

Lisa Robertson

I love the way Lisa Robertson layers and bends language, creating thickness through repetition, cascades, pauses. I adore the way a poet like this can create utter landscapes out of words. I love all of Robertson’s work and how it challenges disciplinarity, while often functioning from within a particular positioning of lyric. Her ‘Soft Architectures’ book launch in Toronto was conducted over the loud speaker of a Value Village thrift store in the west end. It was one of the most memorable readings I have ever been to, and inspires me to pay attention to the site specificity in my own work.

Catherine Black

Catherine Black’s Bewilderness encapsulates what happens when deep beauty is found in the everyday. Its simplicity is actually a very deep lake. This book is quiet, but I implore you not to pass it over. It is masterful, taking everyday small observances and crafting an entire world from them. It is a worlding that creates a sense of space and quietness that washes over. One of my favourite Canadian poets.

Citizen’ – Claudia Rankine

I read in the New Yorker that Rankine’s ‘Citizen’ is an attempt to ‘pull the lyric back into its realities’. To me, Citizen takes possession of the lyric and absolutely makes it waken up the with and hold the space for a discourse on racism. Microagressions, the way racism plays out in the overt and the subtle—these realities are opened up in ‘Citizen’ culminating in a baring open of the ways in which racism is knitted into the everyday. Citizen is at once theory and poetry. There is also a strong and successful incorporation of visual language. Rankine skilfully utilizes an interdisciplinarity that aims towards and culminates into a clear and important message—all the while incorporating the vulnerability of the lyric. Citizen is a tour de force and was a complete game changer for me. A wake up call. A force of interdisciplinarity. A rallying call. NDN Coping Mechanisms. Poets are courageous and are at the forefront of social change.

Billy Ray Belcourt

In NDN coping mechanisms, Billy Ray Belcourt bends the genre of poetry to speak towards a discourse of Indigenous liberation, via the unearthing of (not unlike Rankine) the subtleties of racial aggressions and the worlding of something else more centric to indigenousness—the every possibility of a new vision. Another masterful example of interdisciplinarity, and a must read if you are interested in contemporary poetry.


Melanie Janisse-Barlow

Born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Melanie Janisse-Barlow (B.A. Communications ‘92, Concordia University, Montreal; B.F.A. ‘00, Emily Carr University, Vancouver; M.F.A. ‘14, Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto) has work in private and public collections around the world. Her ongoing Poet Series, a self-curating/practopoietic series of portraits of Canadian poets, has reached 80 pieces and has gained national media coverage in Canada and the US. Ship of Fools, an installation on a 24-foot Shark sailboat, was performed in Toronto and on Lake St. Clair for the Media City Film Festival. Commissioned works include a portrait of The Honourable Justice Edward Ducharme for the Superior Court of Ontario chambers. Her work has been represented by the Luft Gallery in Toronto, and she has authored two collections of poetry: Orioles in the Oranges (Guernica, 2009), and Thicket (Palimpsest Press, 2019).

Leave a Reply