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A Violent Streak: Review of Stephanie Warner's First Poetry Collection

“The men out to buy the annual Christmas gun, and gas /

For ATV doughnuts on Lake Gull”

- A Violent Streak, Stephanie Warner

The portrait these lines create are painfully Canadian, and a concise summary of the content of Stephanie Warner’s first poetry collection “A Violent Streak.” Warner begins the collection by addressing the topic of tired routine in her writing through a painfully raw, Canadian lense, using profanities and casual language in combination with metaphors of Canadian Landscapes. Her poem “A Violent Streak”, after which the collection is titled, begins with a violent tone that decontextualizes the overlooked simplicities of Canadian Living. Riddled with references to the Rockies, Coors Light, and hockey, written bitterly to express a distaste for the way these stereotypes have a “disregard for function,” says Warner. This can be read as a criticism of the simplicities of Canadian living, or alternatively, her resentment and distaste of it. Warner loves to employ metaphors found in foreign countries which suggests this romanticizing or yearning for other cultures.

The collection is divided into three parts as follows:

Part One, titled “The Lawns of Canadians,” is haunted with a hostility in depicting male entitlement in what can be considered mundane Canadian actions. The writing in this section is cut short as it leaves something missing; there is ambiguity where the rhythm and harsh language builds towards unclear actions.

In Part Two, “Home Inn”, the poetry collection seems to shift from notions of upbringing to the struggle of finding “home” and comfort in personal independence. Warner describes roommate ads and how “perhaps all you needed was someone to come home to.” The tone remains biting but instead of addressing what is often labeled as a girl’s “wild twenties”, the speaker resents the sex or drug-induced actions of women, thus reducing a woman’s way of coping to a leisurely activity. This theme finds its climax in the poem “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”, depicting a troubled heterosexual relationship. These themes associate sentimentality with a person’s unhealthy coping mechanisms, a sort of romanticizing of emotional struggles we’re coming to see more and more of in varying pieces of poetry.

In Part Three, the poem “Domesticity”, is the highlight of the collection. The rhythm allows for the emphatic words to paint a full image in the mind of the reader. In that, the speaker tiptoes around the idea of commitment and echoes feminist poets with the unclad depiction of heterosexual sex. Again, reminiscent of popular thematic concerns surrounding womanhood addressed in aggressive language, the twist Warner provides is a refreshing Canadian perspective.

“No matter. She finds the bloodied condom /

The next morning. Jewelled in a jacket of fire ants /

Some are dead, engorged, others still feasting /

On spunk and the blood of a woman /

Whom modernity has promised a rich /

And fulfilling life of the mind.”

- Domesticity, Stephanie Warner

To emphasize conflict, Warner manipulates motifs found in cultures across the world for the purpose of metaphor to illustrate the journey of a Canadian woman. With the progression of this journey, the writing becomes clearer, unobstructed, and potentially even numb to actions that made her angry before. In exploring the text, the modern reader is faced with a yearning for an increased awareness of race and feminism. In the collection, the truncated lines echo the truncated reach for the contemporary themes touched on by Warner, feminism and diversity, but it is a trajectory that ultimately falls flat.

By Brenda Odria


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