The Pissing Women of Lafontaine

Though some will blanch and cluck their tongues at the brazen profaning of a more decorous world, these poems keep polite company with all who delight in poetry of quality. The poems in The Pissing Women of Lafontaine have their progenitor in ancient Roman poet Catullus, in 17th century English Poet Laureate John Dryden’s scatalogical masterpiece, “Macflecknoe,” in the flatulent Yahoos of Swift, and in Canada’s own sometime vulgarian, Irving Layton. Bell writes with laugh-out-loud humour, and a deep respect for our predicament even at low moments in our lives.This book is about far more than one vulgar necessity. The opening section contains poems of such celebratory lyric beauty as to lift us from our ordinary lives. In the opening poem Bell writes about trumpeter swans taking flight over a river on one particularly difficult day, “I swear I hear them say, Alive Alive,” and so we are awakened to the possibility of grace even in low moments. Bell is a poet who in the celebra- tion of quotidian simplicity—picking blueberries, watering the lawn, sipping coffee at a cottage, wandering the tool displays at the local hardware—renews the familiar, delights in the humdrum, lifts us into the realm of the extraordinary where we might marvel at the wonders available to us in our daily lives. And then, he hits us hard, as life often will, with the weirdness of things, the awful, tragic horrors of traffic accidents which suddenly burn us alive, even at fourteen, even though we may be good, decent, impossibly young, as he does in his award-winning poem, “I’m Only Fourteen.” Or he presents us with odd true stories rendered in poems, such as “Man Cuts Off Own Head to Avoid More Work,” which appeared in a newspaper article. This is Roger Bell’s fourth major collection of poems. In these pieces Bell gives us a poet with range.

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