Limited Verse by David Martin

Limited Verse by David Martin is a very experimental book, in that it is really a book within a book. It is both a science fiction/dystopian book about poetry, but also includes some classic poetry reimagined. It really is genre defying, and it is necessary to suspend your disbelief and open your mind while reading this one. In a near future narrative, two scholars make a discovery of a book of poems and work to understand the history behind it. 

Inspired by real life restricted language English, we are introduced to New English, a form of English that only consists of 850 words. This restricted language Basic English was inspired by a project of linguist C.K. Ogden and by the work of famous writers including George Orwell and H.G. Wells. A group of prisoners are awaiting a journey to a new world, where all their memories will be cleared, and they will be harmonized into the language of New English.

Inspired by real life restricted language English, we are introduced to New English, a form of English that only consists of 850 words.

This book will also make you think about the power of language and translation. It ponders what gets lost in translation and how much language we need for thinking.  “One verse maker even said that verse is what is lost between two languages.” It makes us think about the power of writing and not wasting words. Do we need all the words that we have, and does language effect freedom? By this means does translating poetry until simpler English make it easier to understand or does it just lack true emotion? 

“One verse maker even said that verse is what is lost between two languages.”

One of the prisoners, who knows that that New English and memory clearing is happening soon, is secretly trying to translate poetry to this new limited tongue, trying to make sure their love for literacy and poetry can be preserved in some format.  In these mysterious and chilling pages, familiar poems are made anew, as we try to understand this new world at the close of the twenty-first century. 

David Martin is the author of two previous poetry collections, Kink Bands and Tar Swan, which was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize. David’s work has been awarded the CBC Poetry Prize and shortlisted for prizes from FreeFallVallumPRISM International, and the Alberta Magazine Awards. He works as a literacy instructor and organizer for the Single Onion Poetry Series in Calgary, Alberta.

Publisher: University of Calgary Press (April 30 2024)
Hardcover 6″ x 9″ | 136 pages
ISBN: 9781773855301

Laurie Burns is an English as additional language teacher to immigrants, literacy volunteer and voracious reader living in Dartmouth.

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