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The Living Option: Selected Poems by Karen Solie review

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A poet of the modern long-distance journey, Solie embraces the moment and observes the anxieties that come with choice

Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in central Canada, Karen Solie now lives in metropolitan Toronto, and there is something of Aesop's city mouse/country mouse to her semi-biographical poetry. She is rurally oriented, newly arrived in the big city but her small-town attitude is also jagged, sardonic, dry. She writes in "Be Reasonable": "I grew up comforted by coyotes in the evening but the news / from the suburbs is afraid." That sting at the end, the juxtaposition of comfort and fear, is part of Solie's appeal. Her poems open up and clasp tight in one gesture.

Throughout the book, she engages with the designations and paradoxes of her surroundings: the agricultural and the commercial, the industrial and the residential. She lives between her backgrounds, revels in them. Her poem "Medicine Hat Calgary One-Way", which details a bus ride along "the dullest stretch of highway / on earth", sets the scene:

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