Hail, the Invisible Watchman by Alexandra Oliver

It’s such a joy to see how many great poetry releases are coming out during the most excellent of months: April, aka Poetry Month. Hail, the Invisible Watchman by Alexandra Oliver is a true triumph, with tight, well-constructed poems creating multiple worlds and stories. Oliver’s use of formal structure and metre is flawless, rich and enveloping. I feel like I’m gushing a bit too much, but Hail, the Invisible Watchman is really that good. Oliver flits between contemporary settings to more distant ones, from the mundane every day to pop culture and all strange manners in between. The atmosphere, the words, the mesh of more classical forms and modern topics…it’s so, so, so good.

“The range of this collection is spectacular.”

While I could write at length about every poem (and would certainly relish providing my thoughts on every single poem in this volume), for the sake of the blog and also because I want you to read this too, I will stick to a few notable highlights…which take up much of the collection. It’s just really good, okay? Of particular note is the second section of the volume, which is titled “The Blood of the Jagers,” and contains a set of interconnected poems, telling the family story of Anaïs and Emil, their children Simon and Ottilie, and Anu, Simon’s wife. Some of the poems are told in the third person, some from the viewpoint of a specific character, but together, they span decades and share the story of a dysfunctional family. Similarly, the third section, “Clever Little Dragon: On Hetty Dorval,” features another set of interconnected poems told from different viewpoints; however, this time Oliver’s poems are a retelling of the novel Hetty Dorval, a little known 1947 Canadian novel by Ethel Wilson.

The range of this collection is spectacular. The twists that Oliver places in her verses are sly and magical, the way she uses language and metre to craft such strong imagery in a handful of lines is truly masterful. IF you read any poetry this year (and you should!), let it be Hail, the Invisible Watchman. You won’t regret it at all.

See also  The Absence of Zero by R. Kolewe

About the Author

Alexandra Oliver was born in Vancouver, BC. She is the author of Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway (Biblioasis 2013, winner of the 2014 Pat Lowther Memorial Award), Let the Empire Down (Biblioasis 2016), and the chapbook On the Oven Sits a Maiden (Frog Hollow Press 2018). She is the co-editor (with Annie Finch) of Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters (Penguin Random House/Everyman’s Library 2015). A Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, she lives in Burlington, Ontario with her husband and son.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Biblioasis (April 5 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 80 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771964715
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771964715

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.

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April 27, 2022 11:06

[…] Hail, the Invisible Watchman by Alexandra Oliver (April 5, 2022), was reviewed in The Miramichi Reader. The review was published online on April 25, 2022. Check out the full review here. […]

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