Falling – not always a dropping to the ground
as rhyme not death
not a literal fall or heartbreak
any other form of respective bending.
– “A General Tale”
Sandra Ridley composes silence, a considered hush, and a tension so taut that it hums.
– rob mclennan
Sanrda Ridley’s most recent collection of poetry, The Counting House, was published with BookThug this fall. Akin to a bookkeeper’s accounting of what’s given and taken in a fraught, uncertain exchange, this collection goes on to record to pageantry and pedantry of courtly affection gone awry. The poems in The Counting House reject linear structure, and are in fact composed with the possibility of reading them horizontally—as you would literature—or vertically—as you would an accountant’s columns. “The meaning shifts, with those two reading approaches,” says Ridley, “like an interpretation of an event or interpersonal exchange would shift, depending on perspective. Working towards a reckoning, each poem represents a set of re-tellings and tallyings.” Alejandro Bustos, in a review of The Counting House for Apt613, notes that “by producing works that are akin to an emotional audit, her poems ‘tally’ the elements of human relationships.”
Ridley manages pinpoint minutae of a complex thought, extended and stretched apart to reveal and revel in an incredibly dense gymnastic language.
– rob mclennan
In The Counting House, symbols and origins of traditional rhymes involving kings and queens serve as inventory, alongside elements of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. In forensic sequences of inquisition, scrutiny, and reckoning, Ridley reveals the maiden as muse as modern darling – unhoused and exacting – in “all of her violet forms.”
It’s important to be vigilant about sound, silence, and the breath within each—sounds and silences, plural. I’m curious about the interplay of assonance and dissonance, and the tethering of each to each pause. The length of the breath deserves space on the page and the reading stage. Without the breath, there wouldn’t be the poem.
– Sandra Ridley
Ridley’s first full-length collection of poetry, Fallout, won the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for publishing, the Alfred G. Bailey prize, and was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award. Her second book, Post-Apothecary, was short-listed for the 2012 ReLit and Archibald Lampman Awards. Also in 2012, Ridley won the international festival Of Authors’ Battle of the Bards and was featured in The University of Toronto’s Influency Salon. Twice a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for innovative poetry, Ridley is the author of two chapbooks, Rest Cure – and Lift, for which she was co-recipient of the bpNichol Chapbook Award. In a recent interview with The Toronto Quarterly, Ridley discusses her inspirations, motivations, and expectations, in that beautiful-oblique-poetic way writers tend to discuss such things.
“What message(s) are you hoping your readers will take away with them?”
“I hope the book will be worth their time and that their time will be worth our trees.”
You can see more of Sandra Ridley as a participant in Open Book Toronto’s Writers as Readers series, or find out about the tri-BookThug launch at the Ottawa Writers Festival that launched Ridley’s The Counting House as well as Michael Blouin’s I Don’t Know How to Behave and André Alexis’s A. You can also watch a video of Ridley reading from her new collection at the BookThug Fall Launch here.
PRAISE FOR THE COUNTING HOUSE:
Sandra Ridley has revealed our closest contradictions in poems where harm is exhausted in both pleasure and pain. These poems find a blackbird baked into a pie, and our own drooling expectation of dessert, the edible object, is replaced by the excitement of the bird that escapes it, somehow alive. We revel in the spectre of the creature’s death and resurrection. How close we are to pain and destruction here, but Ridley surprises us with life that stubbornly and lovingly continues. In language that soothes and bites word by word, The Counting House is a book that lives fiercely in the complex in-between of love and punishment, pleasure and pain, coo and cry.
– Jenny Sampirisi