Among the Untamed by dee Hobsbawm-Smith

Readers familiar with dee-Hobsbawm-Smith’s work will get their money’s worth from this collection. She knows how to turn a line and the Jeanne Dark poems, in which Joan of Arc is reimagined on the Prairies, offer a fruitful dive into feminist forebears, adding layers of understanding and depth to the collection.

And yet, having read the blurbs, I expected fire. After all, the book is dedicated “to the women in my family”—lines that immediately bring to mind Afrikaans poet Antjie Krog’s withering remark that “the women in my family kapater [neuter] men with their stares.” But where Krog seems to get more strident with age (see, inter alia, Verweerskrif, available in English as Body Bereft), the Hobsbawm-Smith of Among the Untamed has mellowed with age; rather than the roaring wildfire I was expecting, I got a cozy hearth.

I was struck by how many of these poems turn inward, leading poet and reader to a resonant understanding of the older self in contrast to a younger, wilder self. The concerns of these poems are attuned to the individual, to the personal and somewhat nostalgic domesticity. Where the poet does turn her gaze outward, as she does in “Where Stones Gather,” her words do indeed become visceral. In such moments, her writing is pure grit, and it cuts to the bone.

Among the Untamed is a collection I will return to for the many fine poems in it, and to consider the Jeanne Dark/Jeanne d’Arc interplay more—that felt rich and in need of further investigation.

Peter Midgley is a bilingual writer and editor from Edmonton. Over the course of thirty years, he has worked as a freelance editor, festival director, university lecturer, managing editor, acquisitions editor, clerk of court, bartender, actor, janitor, and door-to-door salesman. This experience has given him enough material for more than a dozen books. His latest book, let us not think of them as barbarians (NeWest Press), was shortlisted for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award in 2019.

dee’s award-winning poetry, novels, short stories, and essays are sometimes influenced by her background as a chef and local foods advocate. She lives and works west of Saskatoon, where she served as the Saskatoon Public Library’s 35th Writer in Residence, and earned her MFA in Writing and MA in English.

  • 9781989466469
  • Frontenac House, 2023
  • Pages: 72