Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fishtailing, Book 5 in Canadian Authors Month

Let me just start by saying I haven't read poetry (outside of books with a smidgen here or there, largely as chapter headers), since my University days; which, according to my resume, is starting to be some time ago.  I wouldn't say I don't enjoy it, but I don't actively look for it.   So when Coteau books sent me Fishtailing and I realised it was a collection of poetry making up a story, I was intrigued but not enough to bump it to the top of the pile.
Don't make my mistake!

Beautifully written, Wendy Phillips manages to capture the emotional turmoil of four very different teenagers who come together with an explosive ending.  Natalie, battling with deep childhood scars, Miguel a refugee who has experienced horrors beyond anything anyone around him can understand, Tricia, trying to find her place in the world, and Kyle struggling with secret dreams and desires.

The poems, interspersed with commentaries and memos from their English teacher Mrs Farr and their counselor Ms Nishi, although notably more accomplished then I remember anyone being in highschool, still manage to capture the turbulent emotions and sense of not belonging but wanting to I remember so well.  Mrs. Farr's ignorant commentaries on the teenagers attempts to be honest about their problems through the poetry are clear reminders of similarly blind teachers at my Highschool. 
As a good student I had several teachers make derogatory comments about other students to me (some of them my friends) that even at the time I found shocking and surprising.  Mrs. Farr sounds so like them in her notes it was as if she was plucked from my own Teenage experience.

A really great read, I highly recommend Fishtailing as the counterpoint to the average persons to-be-read pile.  And for those faint of heart people who think they can't wade their way through poetry, I assure you, it reads just as smoothly as your regular reading, no cole notes required!

Fishtailing, by Wendy Phillips
Published by Coteau Books, April 2010

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