A fascinating, ambling, loitering mystery story in verse, a whoizzit rather than a whodunit.
In this innovative and arresting narrative poem, Méira Cook’s walker, a young woman, is a character being written by an “old city poet,” who is in turn being written by another poet, for whom the young woman, “Ms. Em Cook,” has been an amanuensis. Always witty and often hilarious, feather-light in touch, the book is an entertaining exploration of serious issues: youth and age; life, death and rebirth; the (dis)connection of language and reality; tradition and the now. It is an assemblage of seven nesting sections, each of them a sort of chapbook speaking to each of the others and rounding out a long poem of great freshness. A Walker in the City is one of a kind, one of the most original books Brick has ever published.
Her lover stirs and reaches for her and listen — it’s as if she cracks into a hundred pieces with rage and every jagged shard flings itself at his neck. Instead she turns over on her back and practices her thought balloons: if I don’t get there in time start without me and none for me thanks but please help yourself.
“The delights of this remarkable narrative-cum-serial poem: with vivid aplomb, Méira Cook runs images in quick succession, echo-phrasings from a poetic lineage (Dante through Kroetsch) into her ‘purr-air-ie’ city. Here is the ironic voice of a woman poet in the guise of not one but several aging male poets, disaffected and mortal in pursuit of their ‘Girl with a name like a shrug.’ Here is an ear quick with word-play, rhythmic in its intensities. A mind alert to both the lure and the impossibility of metaphor, yet always asking, what do so-called deathless poetry and our mortality have to say to one another?”
“A Walker in the City is full of raucous and rhythmic lines voiced with bardic wisdom and choreographed with flash-dance philosophical wit. Méira Cook’s theatre of language allows the magic of narrative to perform a poetry that is rich with humour and intelligence. This is encore poetry, provocative and intensely entertaining.”
“Most collections of poetry — or should I say their authors — seem to express a view which emphasizes the meaninglessness and the horrible side of things. It is thus a relief to come upon a volume like “A Walker in the City” by Méira Cook. This collection is not exactly cheerful, but neither is it melancholy; the author does not seem to find life meaningless. She’s often matter-of-fact, witty, and humorous. She doesn’t understand life, but then who does?”
—E.E. Cran, The Guardian, PEI
“Read one way, the entire collection is an elegy to one who loomed larger than life: the poems in ‘Being Dead’ are all the more affecting for being ferociously graphic. Brilliantly inventive throughout, the language is never formulaic, never frivolous, although there are moments of passionate frivolity, of breezy or clipped expression, a tone invented to speak about loss. The truth of momentous experience is told without lapsing into either banality or sentimentality.” [Read full review »]
—Barbara Myers, Arc Poetry Magazine
“In A Walker in the City, Méira Cook takes on the old boys’ club of poetry in playful and patricidal fashion. Cook’s eponymous walker [. . .] measures life in feet, ‘the foot a precise / approximation of length.’ Walking and writing share tongues and feet; both acts allow Cook’s ‘girl with a name like a shrug,’ a ‘termagant’ who has turned being written to her advantage by writing her way out of others’ narratives, to establish herself as one of the most enigmatic and powerful characters in Canadian literature.”
—Travis V. Mason, Canadian Literature
“To me, the beauty of A Walker in the City is that there must be deliberate reading and rereading of the collection, much like a leisurely walk through the city, taking a street many times to understand where it leads. One can breeze through the work with the restless feet of a young walker and be entranced by the delightful rhythms and metaphors, or can choose to loaf and meander through the pages, following the complexities and allusions and discovering the same wealth that Méira Cook has found in her Winnipeg.”
—Jessica Kuepfer, The Goose, Waterloo
“Whatever it is, it’s hip, it’s sexy, it’s meta. Cook is playful in her meta-ness. She breaks the mystique of poetry and narration, the fourth-wall of I-don’t-get-it writing [. . .] A Walker in the City is about reading, how we want to be read, as people, and what we desire to read in others. We seem to desire beauty. For all of the paradoxical games Cook plays, she has a way of drawing out this desire, showing it as something sensual and sometimes dangerous.”
—Devin Pacholik, pagesandpatches.blogspot.ca
“I love the narratives folded in narratives, but this collection abounds with pleasures, rhythm perhaps at the top of the list, images vying closely for that spot. Delightful, truly.
In some ways an ode to Winnipeg, the collection is playful and urban and richly allusive but not intimidatingly so.”
—Frances Sprout, materfamiliasreads.blogspot.ca
“Méira Cook’s narrative poem, A Walker in the City, explores themes of age, life, death, language and tradition. Consisting of seven sections, the poem is the story of the walker, a young woman who is a character that is written by an “old city poet” who is being written by another poet. Entertaining and intelligent, A Walker in the City is a captivating holiday read for urban dwellers.”
—Open Book’s Holiday Book Guide
“Amble along with Méira Cook’s A Walker in the City, narrative poetry that is arresting and original, witty and hilarious, one of the most original books published by Brick Books.”
—The Independent Reader Monthly
SHORTLISTED – 2012 Aqua Lansdowne Prize for Poetry
He wakes up naked and drunk as a bear
on sun-fermented garbage.
Hungover and queasy and riled up by bees.
Nothing going well today, he moans,
life being short and the craft, ah, long.
Still, might as well take a stab at it,
lording it over misrule and tending the shame
that transforms a garden into Genesis.
So there he goes, stalking through the world
on his back legs, pelting down half-eaten words
from a great height.
Whatever he touches shrieks and bellows or writhes
like the alphabet.
A is for Crocodile, he croaks,
dashing through the Everglades, See you later!
And B is for the Wasp that stings him and C —
C is for the wide blue Ocean
in which he nearly drowns.
But nothing can drown him, our Adam
whose resolution is steadfast
and breezy at last, and buoyant
as a stone boat.