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by Brenda Schmidt

In her fourth collection, Brenda Schmidt, a poet based in Creighton, Saskatchewan, pays homage to the juxtapositions inherent in her surroundings. The scenery itself is a presence in this work, which depicts the intersection between nature and human activity. Schmidt is both an observer and a participant in her poems, and she successfully illustrates urban intrusions into the natural landscape around her. Grid is a true celebration of life in the northern Prairies.

Schmidt’s many areas of interest – painting, photography, bird watching – are also evident. The names of birds flying through the poems read like an Audubon catalogue: bobolinks, ravens, swallows, plovers, terns, chickadees, and gulls all make appearances, while insects pop up in other poems. Several poems are reactions to the work of other visual artists, including a landscape painting by Dorothy Knowles, and Ron Mueck’s giant sculpture of a baby girl. Girls also show up in various poems, almost flitting through the prairie, appearing and disappearing like the birds.

A wry humour, arising out of observation and irony, is prevalent in Grid, along with a certain sardonic detachment. In a poem called “Express Lane, American Scientist in Hand,” Schmidt recounts spending time in a supermarket checkout line:  “Wait, I bet you think / I’m buying this mag for my husband / like some well-trained, perfect-plain domestic / dream who buys romaine and makes her own croutons. / Note the bag of nuts among my less-than-10-itmes. / They’re for me. I’ve been known to crunch them.”