Little Housewolf by Medrie Purdham

               He wants to make art from them, he wants
               to spray them with glitter. Gilded Bloodsucker,
               he wants to call the piece. No, wait. GLAMPYRE. (“Bower,” p.19)

Built on the plain pleasure of examining small domestic items and happenings, Little Housewolf by Medrie Purdham is a delightful new image in each line of poetry. While the concrete subject matter is skewed to the small (bugs, thimbles, children, very specific local societies), Purdham infuses all of them with the vastness of emotion. A thimble becomes a metaphor for longing, desiring human touch. A pomegranate sits at the centre of a marriage, representing the adventures over the years. The repetitions of “ordinary,” in a poem to her son, becomes a magical prayer of love, rather than a sad, small statement.

“This is a quietly powerful collection of poetry.”

This is a quietly powerful collection of poetry: there are no grand epics here, no rallying cries, just beautiful verse and a keen eye for overlooked details, which become the centre of their own stories. Purdham expresses so much love, joy, fear, and appreciation in these poems that you can’t help but feel remarkably peaceful after reading Little Housewolf. It is a grateful collection of poetry, best exemplified in the poem, “Thanks for My Son’s Innocent Knees, And Thanks,” when Purdham gives thanks – a kind of prayer of gratitude to the universe – for the night her mother-in-law lays dying, but Purdham is given to amazement for how her body still moves as she wants it to in the street.

I often feel very dreamy abut poetry, and reading Little Housewolf was no exception. However, in this case, the dreaminess was reinforced by the fairy tales Purdham created out of the “normal” objects which populate her poetry in this collection, as well as the stories she weaves for that which might not be known. “Newcastle Criminal Gallery, 1871-1873,” gives small stories about some of the petty criminals found the photographs of the gallery. Purdham demonstrates clear appreciation and love for art, in her own art about these photos and paintings which feature in some of her other poems.

The last, and most poignant part of this collection, as well as one which resonated with me right now, was the confusion and wonder at the world. While Purdham is grateful and imaginative, these poems are also critical of a world which doesn’t feel the same as it once was. “Tyne and Wear,” written as a letter from a grandmother, cutting to the narrator’s thoughts, adding context, traces aging into the unfamiliar. Particularly jarring here in the 14th month of the pandemic was the reference to our current state in “For It is Not the Same River and We are Not the Same,”:

               Now it’s quarantine year, and you turn twelve.
               Tall, private, full of headphones. (p.73)

The poem speaks about her son getting older, but I think it’s this line which elevates it, capturing the feeling of our lost year.

Little Housewolf is a treat, full of unexpected observations. A great debut for Purdham.

Medrie Purdham‘s poetry has been published in journals across the country, broadcast on the former CBC Saskatchewan radio program Sound X Change, and three times anthologized in Tightrope Press’s Best Canadian Poetry series. She was the runner-up in Arc Magazine‘s Poem of the Year competition in 2019. She holds a Ph.D. from McGill University and presently lives with her family in Regina, Saskatchewan, Treaty 4, where she teaches at the University of Regina.

  • Publisher : Signal Editions (May 5 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 80 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1550655671
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1550655674

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Alison Manley bounced around the Maritimes before landing in Miramichi, NB, where she works as a hospital librarian. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. When she's not reading biomedical research for her work, she likes reading poetry, contemporary and historical fiction, and personal essays. Noted for a love of bright colours (and lipstick), you can find her wandering the banks of the Miramichi River with a book and a paintbrush.