Review of Camille Martin’s ‘Sugar Beach’ — above/ground press $4
By Jack Goodall
Torontonian, Camille Martin started the decade with a prolific run of books, chapbooks and magazine publications as well as her collage work. In her new collection Sugar Beach she further develops her distinctive style and captivating, flighty approach. With allusions to music and performance art, Martin charts a series of sensations with language that suggests the fleeting and sensual. In the case of "More Jars Than Lids," the anatomy of a plant and it’s growth are presented in tumultuous humanistic terms through a free fall of kinetic verbs.
This insular human perspective emerges in other poems, in which Martin almost feverishly compiles imagery, which though consistently interesting, at times appears overly busy. No image is dwelt upon for too long before identifying an existential problem. Martin is far more interested in the extraordinary than the everyday and there is a distinct reoccurring discrepancy between reality and the imagined object or self, between how we see and how we’d like to see. When speaking of the fantastic or undeniably beautiful, she never lessens her analytical powers. A comic strip hero is portrayed as “the petulant rebel, brute strength exceeded only by the capacity to whine.”
Martin’s references to different artistic mediums in many of the Sugar Beach poems suggest a life not lived but imagined through art. In "Ddoppelgänger Lament," she portrays herself as a detective who, perhaps through her intellect, is entirely without mystery, continously covering “already- solved swindles” and living “a life of unbroken crime.” As with the superhero in "Requerimento" and the birds of "Birdless," Martin writes in terms of reality impregnated with human cynicism that seems modern and unromantic. But the combination of the sacred and human is the key to Martin’s originality and is perhaps at its best demonstrated in the melting Antarctica of "Endless Regressions of Heavens." It’s an involving , beautiful and unnerving piece.