Loop by Anne Simpson

Winner of the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize

Shortlisted for the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Poetry

Anne Simpson is likely one of Nova Scotia’s most prolific living poets and is also a very well known professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish; she is author of the award winning volume of poetry Light Falls Through You and the critically acclaimed novel Canterbury Beach. In her collection Loop, Simpson has penned a contemporary classic of Canadian poetry that really hasn’t been seen since the early works of Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.

This book is all about form; that is what makes it great. Simpson experiments with literally dozens of different forms and styles to eloquently present her musings. Some of the things that she examines throughout the book are the September 11 attacks, the artwork of Brueghel, and a motion art class; the way this is done though is truly masterful. The author takes something seemingly simple and mundane, like biting into a pomegranate or sitting on the deck of a trailer, and works this seed into a thematically complex work.

My favorite piece of the collection is definitely “Mobius Strip.” For those who aren’t familiar with a mobius strip in scientific terminology, it is basically a circular band with a twist in it, there for if you were to simply move your finger straight on the band you will cover the entire surface. Simpson turns this idea into a literary technique. Through 10 pages containing two lines each this poem wraps into itself with the first line also being the last line. The final result is a poem that would be identical if read either forward or backward.

Loop was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest prize for a Canadian poet, and this win was very well deserved. This kind of experimentation is what makes Canadian poetry great. If you look at some of the great early/mid 20th century poets such as Irving Layton and Earle Birney, they all played around with format. The next generation, Ondaatje, bill bisset, bp Nichol, all very experimental in their style. Anne Simpson is very much in this same league.

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