In Meaghan Strimas’s third collection, the poet picks up where she left off in 2010’s A Good Time Had by All. Not one to shy away from life’s rougher edges, Strimas possesses a knack for weaving blunt, unrelenting honesty with breathless confessions and disaffected airs. The result is an odd but effective style that straddles emotional disconnection and provocative, stirring imagery.
Not to say that this collection is cold – that would be a misnomer. Instead, Strimas artfully excavates themes of longing, disappointment, and failed potential. But don’t look to these poems for tenderness or consolation. “Misfiring, or Homesickness,” for example, is a poignant but bittersweet poem about loneliness and the fight against change. “Butterfly Unit One: Naming the Classroom Pets” is also striking, and its clear delivery makes it one of the collection’s most urgent pieces.
A standout is “He Said / She Said: Bruce Nuclear,” which is dedicated to “Lois Hanna, missing since 1988.” Strimas, a master at simple and implicative phrasing, begins with, “It seemed like fun at the time: she was bored and lonely.” The words have weight, and Strimas is rhythmically adept, knowing when to pull back and allow each stanza to breathe on its own.
While many of the poems in Yes or Nope centre around bleak realities and bad decisions, Strimas often brings a playful nature to the collection, which ironically adds to the book’s general disaffection. “Nature Poem,” another standout, includes the following in the opening lines: “Seriously, who doesn’t want another poem about the fern fronds who wave farewell.” The humour takes the sting out of the overall confrontational tone, which takes a jibe at CanLit’s stereotypical tendencies to wax poetic about trees and terrain. It’s not exactly a welcome mat, but it doesn’t have it to be. In fact, anything other than what Strimas has presented would feel out of place in a collection so clever, haunting, and irreverent.