An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife considers how animals exist in our lives and imaginations: as autonomous beings, as mimics and metaphors of our own lives, and as bellwethers of environmental damage. At times humourous, tragic, or both, these poems tell the story of natural existence in a sometimes unnatural world.
A timely suite of innovative poetry. That’s what artist Katie Vautour presents in An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife. I’m a fan of fauna – wildness, beauty, metaphorical and times anthropomorphized, animals as much a part of us as landscape and history. I like that this multimedia creator works at times with recycled, repurposed material – what I consider all writing to be. But I find a relatable common thread in this work by way of water. Firstly, through the mildly detached observation one undergoes in an aquarium. Secondly, on low-tide shores. And thirdly, in the presence of mariners – fishermen at work, reminiscent of Hemmingway’s Old Man and perhaps in present days of depleting stocks, a whiff of Ahab, chasing the unattainable.
This, from Aquarium: Inside this transparent circle of walls: / monumental fractured columns, petrified / stalks of plants. We pass useful hours, / swirl in whispering circles for days.
While this is from How to Get a Clam to Open Up to You: Strewn over dunes, old bowls / hold hollowed-out promises / of food. They’re hard cases– // the buried recluses / gush secrets.
And this, from Havana: Angling, three men / tug and struggle against / the weight of pulleys hoisting ropes. / Poles bob, braced, // wait for a snap of // the deck, the lines, / stretched to their breaking / point.
Prior to this (beyond firsthand experience) my window onto wildlife was Audubon, Mutual of Omaha and the narration of David Attenborough. Each attempt to bring the wild into our homes was in its own way poetic – a transmogrification, reinterpreting “out there” for the comfort of “in here.” It’s one thing to view nature through screens – the glass of a fishbowl, cages and pits of a zoo or the controlled risk of packaged safaris. Quite another to immerse oneself in it, be it a walk in the woods, an ocean swim, or in this case, re-examining all of it on paper – a map – an expert’s interpretation of reality. Katie Vautour’s book is much the same – innovative work delivered with unique skill. Another reinterpretation of reality, a re-examination of nature, our world, and with it the imperativeness of attention and care.
About the Author: Katie Vautour is a visual artist and writer published in a variety of literary journals, and though she dabbles in all genres, her main focus is poetry. Katie graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University with majors in Filmmaking, Painting, Drawing and Art History. She has participated in residencies in Oaxaca, Mexico, New Brunswick, and the Banff Centre. She exhibits her mixed-media work, paintings, and drawings throughout Atlantic Canada. She lives in St. John’s.
- Title: An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife
- Author: Katie Vautour
- Publisher: Breakwater Books, 2019
- ISBN: 978-1-55081-768-3
- Pages: 84
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