Yvonne Blomer served as Poet Laureate for the City of Victoria from 2015 to 2018. During that tenure, as a legacy project, she put out a call for poems about the Pacific Ocean. The resulting anthology, Refugium: Poems for the Pacific was published by Caitlin Press in 2017. A follow-up volume, Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds, came out in 2020. So, it’s clear that Blomer has established herself as a poet who cares deeply about the environment.
The Last Show on Earth offers further evidence of that. She often takes inspiration from another artist whose work is enmeshed with care for the environment, painter Robert Bateman. Just as his images are often shrouded in mysterious fog, the elements he portrays—whether bear or bird or lichen on a rocky outcrop—are rendered in an immaculately sharp and realistic style.
In turn, Blomer has taken inspiration from a number of his paintings, and she has used her palette of words to create her own sharply drawn and haunting images, as in this stanza from “It was made for you: a love poem from the future.”
Last night I dreamt I was lost in an already vanished rainforest, and the dog, still the dog, bound away and between falling shafts of light.
This is not the only instance where the environments she considers are close to home. In a long poem about her mother’s death, she recalls Tahlequah, the orca from J-Pod who carried her dead calf through the sea for 17 days. In it, Blomer manages to combine good-byes to her mother with reflections on her son and her own role as a mother. The tenses she uses are as fluid as the ocean. “My mother breathes between my breaths. / She would have carried me. She carries me. / My son surfs in silence.”
This protective, even motherly demeanour, is of course strongest in poems about her son, a child who was early on diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, a child who mostly communicates in a private parent/child language, a child as beautiful as the morning.
Silent soft-voiced, signing one, I begin to dream again your speaking voice— smooth and low—a warm hesitant hum in the deep knowing.
But these poems go well beyond the realm of home. Dawson Creek, France, Japan, Blomer is a citizen of the world, an explorer. An extended stay in the Baltics, in Vilnius, results in “What Do You Need, What Do You Want?” a kind of ars poetica/travelogue, a poem that to my mind is the strongest, perhaps the keystone of the book. Like other of her poems, this one’s reliance on sound makes it almost essential for it to be read aloud: “…the sun’s light flickers between showers / of thunder and rain.” There is likely a name for the form of the poem. While it’s haibun-like with its travel element as well as the haiku-like queries throughout it, that’s not exactly what it is, though calling it an extended haibun might come close. I’ll admit I can’t help looking for forms in Blomer’s work. She often incorporates interesting ones, and frequently lays claim to her own variation, as she does in “Sad sonnet with extra couplet” as that is precisely what the title claims: a nearly-perfect Shakespearean sonnet with indeed wicked bit of a couplet, which one can only hope is not prophetic.
And while the overall conceit of the book is a wild kind of circus, she takes us from a place of safety and refuge, then on through time, to a frenzied look at what may well be the world’s end—at least, the world as we know it. But to take that circus line further—after all, this is ‘the last show on earth’—there’s a trapeze-like rhythmic swing, one that almost makes a humming sound which connects the poems and sections each to each. From a poem that ends in the word “burn,” the next begins: “Sometimes, swimming, you are also immersed in fire.”
I’m not altogether sure whether maybe we, the current inhabitants of the planet are indeed ‘the last show on earth’; I keep hoping otherwise, and I am pretty sure Yvonne Blomer does too. Why else would she dare to express such a realistically hopeful thought as this:
I am barefoot in my garden. I am standing in the uncertain mist of history hoping to slow the world down.
Hoping to slow the world down may well be our very best hope. And reading a book such as this is a great way, even temporarily, to do exactly that.
Award-winning poet and memoirist Yvonne Blomer is the author of the travel memoir Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur, and three books of poetry, most recently As if a Raven. She works as an editor, teacher and mentor in poetry and memoir. Yvonne served as the city of Victoria’s poet laureate from 2015-2018. Yvonne lives, works and raises her family on the traditional territories of the WSANEC (Saanich), Lkwungen (Songhees), Wyomilth (Esquimalt) peoples of the Coast Salish Nation.
- Publisher : Caitlin Press (Feb. 11 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 148 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1773860771
- ISBN-13 : 978-1773860770