Categories: Poetry

This Is a Stickup: Poems by Amber McMillan

When Amber McMillan says “This is a stickup!” then you had better give her your whole attention, for she brandishes a weapon loaded with poems of love, regrets, anger, sorrow, happiness and many other moods, to boot.

This collection of about 80 pages is divided into four parts, numbered consecutively. In Part Two, the twelve poems are based on the twelve calendar months, and while they all don’t obviously describe that particular month’s mood, some, like “July” do:

We are right in the middle
of the meteorological summer

and I'm thinking to myself,
or I want to, that while my love

for you is an art, I'm still
going to do whatever I want.

The phrase “love… is an art” harkens back to the titular poem in Part One “This is a Stickup”:

Chris once said work is an act of love
because it's true, some acts are acts of love
and everything else is not.

For Ms. McMillan, love is sometimes an act, sometimes art. Love as performance art? Just one of the introspective aspects of this collection, her second.

Some of the poems, like “Everything is Close” (in Part One) and “You’re An Orphan Too” cryptically deal with loss, especially those of a loved one, taken too early. The first is about a child struck down by a speeding, but unseen pickup truck that “slid around the corner/as quiet as a hummingbird” The second poem is a tribute to writer Richard Vaughan, a close friend of Ms. McMillan’s who went missing in 2020 and was found dead ten days later:

I don't know if I saw you then
or if I saw you the night before,

but I see you now. I know
what happened, or I know where

you went in your mind,
where you had to go to do it.

There are also lighter moments in this collection, too, such as “Lunch Break” in Part Three:

I took the long way home
to find three singers and a fiddler,

caps on the ground at their feet.
The breeze finned a passerby's

hair as he joined in the chorus,
his voice thin and pretty.

You could see he'd been to water,
to Redmond's Pond, to bring

back a bloom, bright-white,
like cotton in a pint-glass of water.

One of those serendipitous moments in a day to find a little happiness and joy in the middle of the day, in the city.

When I read poetry, I generally gravitate to poems about nature and how it can act to soothe us and make us consider our place in the universe. Other times, it pays to get into some good urban poetry like Ms. McMillan’s. I found it approachable, and just enigmatic enough to delve a little deeper into the subject matter (as in “Murder City” in Part Three). This Is a Stickup should prove to be one of the major poetry releases for the fall of 2022.


Amber McMillan is the author of the memoir The Woods: A Year on Protection Island and the poetry collection We Can’t Ever Do This Again. Her work has also appeared in PRISM internationalArc Poetry Magazine, and the Walrus. She lives in Fredericton. 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Buckrider Books (Sept. 20 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 88 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989496563
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989496565

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James M. Fisher

James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began The Miramichi Reader (TMR) in 2015, realizing that there was a real need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio as well as other media sites. James works as a Medical Radiation Technologist and resides in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.

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