Congratulations, Rhododendrons by Mary Germaine

The poems in Mary Germaine’s debut collection Congratulations, Rhododendrons are tender and fierce, jaunty and solemn, deliberate and sassy. She writes about everyday moments, from the routine of catching an early morning bus under a still night sky, to the strange aloneness that follows you through an empty mall after hours. The imagery is rich; be it a hummingbird or a plastic bag, Germaine uses these images to capture life’s unspoken tensions and speak of deeper truths.

The poet is a master at creating a lyrical line. Words drip together with such decadence they beg to be read and savoured aloud. Exhibit A from the poem “Happily” in which the world is ripe for renewal: “someone was unswallowing a stone.” Or from “Scene Study” where Germaine peels back a layer to reveal something… more authentic:

Sometimes a glob of mustard 
is just resting on a man’s golf shirt 
and a commuter manoeuvers 
drinking around a Starbucks stir stick. 
Everything sucks 
as much as it can.

The poet’s use of language is lush but precise, buttery, and sharp.

Some cheekiness shines through as many of Germaine’s poems become extensions of their titles. Case in point, “The Reception” begins (or continues) as:

in the church basement 
a shred of lettuce limps in the Miracle Whip 
Wonder Bread sops the pickle juice 
someone chewed the entire circumference 
of her Styrofoam coffee cup 
but left the coffee and the continents of creamer floating in it.

Likewise, the title “Lines from Inside a Cage of Bees Which Are Not in Fact Bees Because All the Bees Are Dead Forever and Who Let That Happen Hey” is suggestive of a secret joke the poet wants to share with the reader.

This collection is participatory; with each passing poem, the reader is invited into a deeper conversation. Germaine is uniquely able to show the world as it is, without malice or judgement. She wrestles with questions of God, of simplicity and happiness, and of justice, but without being preachy. She simply strips away the film and invites the reader to observe the mundane anew. These poems are haunting, challenging, and full of wit. Mary Germaine is a powerhouse and Congratulations, Rhododendrons will shake you up and break your heart in all the best ways.

MARY GERMAINE is a poet, an educator, and a Ph.D. student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. She currently lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ House of Anansi Press (April 6 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 96 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1487008686
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1487008680

 -- Website

Kate O’Gorman is a writer and editor who lives on the Saskatchewan prairie traditionally known as Treaty 4 Territory near the city of Moose Jaw. She is the Prose Editor for Grain Magazine, and her work has appeared in The New Quarterly, Grain, Qwerty, and elsewhere. Kate holds an MFA in Writing and reviews books @prairieflowerreads.