some conditions apply by Mary Rykov

When I open a book from Inanna I know I have something worthwhile. Strong, independent feminist work, a mosaic of talent and voice. Mary Rykov’s some conditions apply came to me electronically, during isolation. At times a mobile device, laptop or reader, can lack experiential feel, bound paper enhancing a book’s tone. Not so in this case. Stylized structure and layout still speak, uniquely tactile through my screen’s soft glow, dimmed a little, enlarged a lot (I’m still awaiting new glasses). Despite a predominantly quarantined existence, I find myself outdoors, virtually, with Rykov’s post-shooting sonnet:


Sparrows hop / the sultry pool deck / scrounging snack crumbs / while squeals and screams / belly laughs and belly flops / flips and plops / punctuate / splashes // Crickets chirp / and birds beg / in flux, in fright, / and in the all / and in the nothing / that changes

Exuberance in onomatopoeic alliteration, I’m tensed, anticipating the inevitable dowsing of a poolside splash. But the season of swimming, songbirds, and water toys refuses to linger, referenced as inevitable change. With that shift, summer doesn’t notice:


Cicadas complain overhead / Leaves crunch underfoot // Conkers break open / where they fall // Light dies early now / with chill of evening air // Summer blinks / and flees

Fled, but not forgotten. Recalling it all with a satisfied sigh, I find comfort as we share a song – the poetry of music with inherent national pride. This is singing Cohen:

We sang your honey / when our youth / was new We lean // this way / forever, / travel blind

Travelling blind. How it must, or ought to ensue. Departures and destinations – planned perhaps, but invariably variable. Before settling in with Rykov’s work, I made a disciplined point of first finishing a writing exercise, a weekly endeavour derived from a prompt. Which made me smile as I came to this, realizing we writers are all alike. This is our author’s writing prompt:


Using freshly moulted feathers / from fledgling sparrows / write your name / as it appeared / in yesterday’s / obituary // Let them squawk, / don’t stop // Keep both hands moving / across the sky

Nodding again to nature, time, the creativity of melding media – inward and out. Mary Rykov’s some conditions apply is a beautiful collection of work, one to be savoured, wherever you are, and by whatever means that you read. While time, at this time, is seemingly slowed, still we enjoy a seasonal shift – literal and softly allegorical, from the sounds of summer, avian transition and pulse of a seasonless song, these are creatures captured humanely, with an expiry date of never.

About the Author: Puerto Rican-Canadian María Helena Auerbach Rykov lives in Toronto. Her writing appears online and on paper in numerous venues. More at

Title: some conditions apply
Author: Mary Rykov
Publisher: Inanna Publications, May 26, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-77133-765-6
Pgs: 98 pp
Reviewer: Bill Arnott

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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.