Maybe it’s appropriate, as I’m nearly done reading the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival, to read a book of poems titled Maps. The slim volume goes on quite the journey, changing not just physical locations (a beloved home, an English pub, 28th Street, Oslo) but exploring emotional landscapes too. Death, the end of a relationship, a family member’s history.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: school literature canons need to be updated. There is so much great work from the past 20 years that would likely inspire less boredom than The Canterbury Tales, which we studied for two months (which is a lifetime, in high school). I’m sorry Mr. Nelson—you and your contemporaries need to share something contemporary with your students. Maybe then they’ll like reading? Even poetry? Or remember something about the book after the fact?

John Freeman’s first poetry collection is sad and sweet and takes place in a recognizable world. (Ahem, instead of the aforementioned Canterbury Tales and so much else in the “Literary Canon”).

There is grief, in Oslo:

“…I begin
a letter describing the day,
knowing you’ll
never read it. Later,
among commuters,
I’m on the street,
and, for an instant,
I feel
you’re here.
Ice, lights,
the wind’s knowing sere.
It’s been two years.

There’s humour, in ‘Tautology’. Anger, in ‘The Money.’ Skepticism, in ‘Pumpkins at Night.’

I felt the book was complete in its breadth of experience and emotion, and even it’s preoccupation with physical spaces.

John Freeman was at Event 53 (Freeman’s New Voices) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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