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Blood Orange by Heidi Garnett
reviewed by Candice James

Blood Orange
Heidi Garnett
Frontenac House Poetry


There is a very predominant thread of childhood trauma and growing up in the shadow of the ravages of World War II that weaves its way in and out of the pages of this poetry collection; and there is a surreal landscape of imagination and imagery bound into the very fabric of the poems.

The imagery immediately takes charge right from the first poem “Gdansk Redux”: Memories are windows hung in the sky, glass panes / You press your face against to see who lives inside. / Is he dead or alive?”

In “The Key” Garnett offers sage advice with perfect poetic aplomb: “Be careful / and live your life as if days are minutes. / Don’t count on second chances. Mind what you say. / Words can be little savages / who stick matches between your toes / and light them. Don’t play with fire.”; and her metaphor for death is such a thing of beauty: “the aroma of death, /emanations of flower petals burned on life’s altar.”

In her poem “Past Perfect” recalling her father’s death, the poet compares life and death; body and spirit to sky and earth as one entity and the last four lines are indeed a succulent dessert for the reader to feast upon: “The moon begins its slow ascent, a lantern / held aloft. Starts clutching rucksacks / to their fiery chests follow close behind. / Sky and earth indivisible now, one seamless garment.” And there are some fabulous lines in “The Last Dance”: The bone of the river fractured’ // our breath braiding into a lovely rope.”

“Breath Sounds”, a terrific poem, is my favourite of my favourites (too many to choose from).It is the perfect poem to end the book. “I believe the sun / is a rusted clock and my life is built on minutes, / but I’m not afraid.” /// “Breath held in abeyance, winter’s cold dream begins / to drift awake and ground fog lifts from its damp bed / to taste young forsythia buds with its long fingers. / Sleep is an elbow on which eternity leans.”

Blood Orange is filed with blatant memories that shock and indelible images that forever underscore the meaning of the word beauty.

Candice James is a poet, musician, visual artist, singer songwriter. She was Poet Laureate of New Westminster, BC for two 3 year terms 2010-2016. and awarded the title of Poet Laureate Emerita in November 2016 by the City. She is the author of thirteen poetry books, the most recent The Water Poems (Ekstasis Editions 2017).