Cradle and Spoon: Poems by Kate Spencer

Kate Spencer’s new collection, Cradle and Spoon, is an apt demonstration of how to fully embrace spring, one needs to also appreciate winter’s work. Leading the reader into dark forest spaces, the work is raw and not pretty, but that’s only because pretty is best kept for immature things.

The stark imagery woven throughout the slim volume of 47 poems lays beautifully bare the lived and living experience of substance use, loss, and death, “reheating happiness [she] forgot”

To explore the pain and grief suffused throughout is the role of the body and how it interacts, and reacts, to trauma and emotion resulting from decisions and actions. There isn’t a dewy damsel in a red cloak to be found as the subject of a love-sick stanza here. Rather, the characters in the poems are “brittle with scurvy-starved desire“, with “skin…worn thin, chapped/and jaundice-to peel, poke“. Spencer also invokes religious imagery to examine what was revered and sacred (“I admit the blood was mine, contaminated/ceiling and stove, a match to these/stick stigmata arms.”), and uses objects that are meant to bring comfort to us as symbols of devastation (“a cradle from her death mask”; “I can’t cook anything outside of a spoon”).

"…women you’ve made 
into ghosts, and ghosts into poetry...

Without our sacrificial daughters, what 
would be left to write about?"

Throughout, Spencer strikes hard with gut-punching gothic, scenes that she paints in tints, tones, and shades of yellow, adjusted depending on the need for melancholy (“Grief slipped like a dress / Over fragments, my hepatitis / Skin and weak tendons.”) or aching nostalgia for different times (“…you are missing, vanished from the sunny pantry, vanilla and sugar cubes left unattended.”).

No, there’s no Red Riding Hood, but there is “a skinny wolf with holes/in his sheep’s coat”. And what big teeth it has.

Kate Spencer hails from small-town Saskatchewan. She received a Bachelor of Arts, Honours with a concentration in creative writing in 2017, and a Masters of Arts in 2020, from the University of Regina. She spends her free time in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, where her mother was born, and Kate lived as a child.

 -- Website
Bryn Robinson lives in Quispamsis, NB, although she still, and always will, consider herself a Saint Johner. She uses her BA in psychology and French, and her PhD in experimental psychology, from the University of New Brunswick, to help her support health research in the province. She prefers contemporary fiction, narrative non-fiction, graphic novels and poetry - and if they are humorous, all the better. When not reading, she's exploring the New Brunswick forests and seascapes, camera in hand.