Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

You Know Who You Are

by Ian Williams

The letters on the cover of Ian Williams’ debut collection are all white except for one “u” and one “i,” both of which are red. This is because the poems in the book are chiefly concerned with the pronouns “you” and “I.” From the dedication to the epigraph to the poems themselves, everything between the covers explores the idea of address. Who is speaking? Who is being spoken to? The first poem, “Anybody Could Love You? Look at You. Look at Your Face,” concludes in a deliberately mysterious fashion: “You could be anybody.” A poem near the end of the collection reads, “You? I mean I.” Notions of “you” and “I” form the centrepieces of the collection, and for the most part they are shown to be utterly irreconcilable.

The collection includes both traditional forms and poems that abandon tradition: there is a successful villanelle, haiku, and a triolet; there’s also some typographical trickery and conceptual poetry. Williams fuses both methods in the sonnet “Buffering,” which intersperses the circular Windows wait icon within the poem. The majority of poems, though, are short and lyrical, and refer to ancient scripture or popular culture.

The only underwhelming part of the book is the section entitled “Emergency Codes,” which follows the life of “Dre” and includes some ill-advised use of dialect: “After all you only mine.” The rest of the poems, however, are mature, personal, and wise.