No Ordinary Place
by Pamela Porter

Ronsdale Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-553-80151-1.
Reviewed by Khadijah A.
Posted on 03/27/2012


From the moment I opened this beautiful book of poetry, I felt that I had met a soul sister.

Many bring food. Some carry flowers,
      I've brought poems—
bouquets in profusion, armfuls,
      a cacophonous disarray

Pamela Porter calls her poems in No Ordinary Place a "disarray," but in reality, though beautiful, wild and varied, they flow into one another seamlessly, creating a natural landscape of poetry that takes the reader by the hand and leads her through the book, word by perfectly placed word. Porter looks both inward and outward, joining the soul of the human to the soul of the natural world, describing the everyday in a way that brings together past and present and creates a sense of longing for something at once incredibly simple and yet hauntingly complex.

...The chokecherry
beside the cattle guard bloomed with birds
feasting on the final fruit, one hawk
on the power line, patient and lonely,
our child in her crib and her dark hunger.
My prayer for her sleep. Then the wire, coiled
like a summer rattler, pulled snug with the claw
of the hammer I held in place, my feet braced
in snow hard as love, burrs catching on my socks,
sleet of tears stinging my face,
my hands just holding on, and my breasts
sudden with milk...

I read each poem with anticipation. Porter constantly surprises, sharing with us a world in which conventional lines are blurred and the most ordinary thing can, in a breath, or with a word, be transformed into something extraordinary. Past, present and future seem only marginally separated in this world.

Sometimes my father is big,
Sometimes he is small.
      There are nights
when my father is young,
and days when he is old...

One day, they say,
he must leave his books behind,
his papers, the shapes his hands
have rendered,
      He will travel alone,
a susurrant sea, the night
a darkness without stars.

I was literally unable to put No Ordinary Place down once I had begun reading it. The language is clear and deceptively simple, and Porter weaves a stunning web of imagery that holds the reader captive from beginning to end. This is a book I know I will pick up frequently and cherish for years to come.

Pamela Porter is a Canadian novelist and poet. She was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has lived in Texas, Louisiana, Washington and Montana. She immigrated to Canada with her husband and lives in North Saanich, British Columbia. She is the author of the multiple award-winning novel The Crazy Man, and four volumes of poetry: Stones Call Out, The Intelligence of Animals, Cathedral, and No Ordinary Place. Her poetry won the Prism International Poetry Prize, the Vallum Magazine Poetry Prize, and has appeared in literary magazines in Canada and the U.S.

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