“Reporting from Night” is a group of poetry that I’ll admit I have conflicted sentiments about because I definitely see a great eye and charm in Kateri Lanthier’s work on the whole, but the quality of the collection is a bit inconsistent in points.
Lanthier’s a Canadian poet that has a whimsical, precocious style that, when it’s particularly strong, asserts itself through wonderful images, narrative structure, and plays on words. There’s a running thematic in each of two sections the collection is divided into – “Earth’s Familiar Objects” (which revolves around the theme of Piotr Sommer’s statement “All memory we owe to objects”) and “Who is Us?” (which centers around the general theme of childhood, and takes on a personal tone by drawing from both Lanthier’s own childhood, her children’s perspectives, and perhaps a visual reminiscence of bright moments of the author’s life, told through more intimate structure.)
I think the second section, collectively speaking, was a much stronger offering than the first. The first part, while centering on the thematic of memory attached to objects, often fell short in conviction for some of the individual poems more often than not, and struck me as somewhat fillerish because of quite many of the poems’ brevity and telling natures. There were poems like “Poor Butterfly,” “Romance”, “Beauty’s Danger,” “Books Were,” and “Wasn’t Listening” that were a bit too vague for me to really connect to the ideals/images displayed within them, and almost limiting in their brevity. But there were others like “Exit/Entrance”, “Oscar Wilde at the City Auditorium”, and “Circus 1907” that blew me away with the level of imagery and expansion.
Particularly with “Oscar Wilde at the City Auditorium”, I was enamored with the lines: “An emerald moth has flattened itself on the/window/like a set of poisoned lungs. A woman weary of such parlour tricks/she has brought in his head, once again/on a silver salver./She will permit/his fortune-teller’s palm on her breast/but this evening she sees his fingers/curved and lined, a scallop shell,/a platform for Beauty.”
The second section of the collection feels stronger because of the more intimate and obvious ties between each of the poems. “Cygnet Lake” is a wonderful display of visual senses in nature, and observations of interaction with one of the author’s children. The collection’s namesake – “Reporting From Night” – is an interesting tie to the inspiration of the author taking care of her children in the middle of the night, and noting the activity even in the quiet of the setting. Among a few other favorites in this section included “Night Undone”, “Lake Road Knowledge,” “The Near Suburb” and “In Arcadia.” There were a few poems in the second section that didn’t strike me, but at least it was easier to tell the ties between poems in this part than in the former, where it was harder to get that same kind of intimate connection.
Overall, I thought it was worth the read, and certainly a collection I think people will like for the author’s debut collection, but I wish that it could’ve been just a bit more consistent and cohesive – keeping the intimacy and imagery front and center, rather than having some of the poems where they were too brief to communicate some of the ideas that the author intended.
Overall score: 3/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Iguana Books.