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Sumptuary Laws by Nyla Matuk

Literary critic and poet Stewart Cole has written in his blog, The Urge, a review of Nyla Matuk's new collection of poetry, Sumptuary Laws. In his review, Stewart notes that cosmopolitanism has become "somewhat of a leitmotif in Canadian poetry criticism" and that Matuk's Sumptuary Laws is "a book cosmopolitan in a much more literal and thoroughgoing way than any in recent memory." Matuk's book is set in a myriad of places around the world, contains allusions to such figures from the well-known, like Wordsworth, to the lesser-known, like Andreas Vesalius, references foods from around the world, etc. Stewart notes that Matuk draws from her Modernist influences, her poetry containing Eliot's "wry urbanity," the Imagism of H.D., and continental surrealism.

Despite his criticism that he "ultimately would have preferred a slimmer, more enigmatic volume," Stewart still emphasizes that Sumptuary Laws and Matuk's poetry, of which contains "an unusually singular and compelling voice," deserves widespread attention.

To read the full and thorough review, visit The Urge.

Stewart has also just published his first collection of poetry, Questions in Bed (Goose Lane Editions). So when you're done checking out his review, why don't you check out his poetry?

1 comment

Dear Stewart Cole,
I know you wrote the review over two years ago now but it is only recently that I found myself reading Nyla Matuck's fine collection 'Sumptuary Laws.' Plus, it was Pound was it not who wrote that Literature is what stays news and I think Matuck's poems are indeed news !

I like the review; you get many things right or at least I find myself agreeing with many of the points you make: "...(poems) on the verge of unhinging into incoherence...is part of what makes this collection so exhilarating." Or " the poems ...continually stage our urge to sumptuousness." There are many more well-written insights or making explicit what is implicit or poetic in her work. And your examples are also great. Your choice of the poem 'Lust" as an example of her use of language is intelligent and your ability to catch the echoes of early moderns such as Eliot and H.D. in her work is also insightful and smart.

But, I disagree with your views on the Commentary that concludes the collection. You are let down or feel somehow the magician has let you in on or exposed the prosaic tricks used to make the poems. This is the moment the mind sags ; the emotional equivalent of finding the the dent or missing springs in the middle of the bed. Not at all Mr.Cole. It is the poet's other voice playful, resourceful, showing us her other face, the face we all put on to face the world rationally and with some coherence. It is a the everyday face and it is a great juxtaposition to all that has come before.
Cheers,
Carmelo Militano

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