Slant Room by Michael Eden Reynolds  

Slant Room is a marvellous debut by Yukon poet Michael Eden Reynolds. These are poems of verbal adventurousness, subtlety, formal rigour and clarity -- but their craft in no way diminishes their full-heartedness.

Slant Room marks the book-length emergence of a poet whose work, already startlingly assured, is gaining national recognition. The poetry of Michael Eden Reynolds transforms both the Yukon’s terrain and such everyday objects as a refrigerator through the use of arresting imagery and spare, dense language, finding a musical equivalence that is rare in contemporary Canadian poetry. ‘... I knock/ a cup of sugar cubes, it spits across/ the tabletop: metric archipelago.’ The book’s four sections include the spacious landscapes of ‘Spare Room’, an elegiac dream-suite, ‘Migrations’, and the strange mindscapes from the title section. The finale, ‘Fugue’, shows the poet expanding his repertoire in a suite of interpenetrating sonnets that wormhole from the past through a catastrophic future. Reynolds’ voice, reminiscent by turns of the imagery of John Thompson and the musicality of W. S. Graham, is nonetheless distinctive, and finally original. This book is: ‘... a room that makes you:/ the way that rock was split, awed,/ mouth filled with rare plants and meltwater.’

Table of contents


Spare Room
Spring Night in Caledon
Atlantic Rain
Ouimet Canyon
Upper Laberge
White River Ashfall
Loon Loon Loon
Translations of Willow


Slant Room
Slow Boat
Ho Fa Hotel: On the malady of travel
The Safety Pin
The Microchip
There are many rooms
Castor Gulo (poem of a beaver becoming a wolverine)
Upon the Conversion of Stephen Harper
Early Spring, Canoe Lake (1917)
Self Portrait as a One-Eyed Rat (F.H. Varley, Lynn Valley, 1934)
Past the fence with the ghost of the choked dog
Window Polishing
Left Turn
Tuesday Myth
Chickenpox Daughter
Soundtrack to the Moment of Your Birth


Review text

‘Something profoundly Canadian, Slant Room is a collection of poetry from Michael Eden Reynolds, a man born and raised and in love with his home country of Canada. His poetry reflects on the many aspects of his country from the urban life that isn’t all that different from America’s, to a rural great north that is like nowhere else in the world. Slant Room is a top pick for any world poetry collection. ‘‘Tuesday Myth’’: A lesser god slips through a baffle in the air/and doesn’t go back, lives out a mortal life/moment to moment, opens up a franchise shop,/wakes, works and sleeps, makes a ceremony out of every needless meal.’

—James Cox, Midwest Book Review

Review quote

‘When you pick up Michael Eden Reynolds’ first collection of poetry, Slant Room, it is as if he is handing you a pair of binoculars. As soon as you have finished focusing on the constellations far above, he gets you to flip the binoculars around so you are looking down the wrong end. Binoculars, of course, work both ways. One way, they make us feel as if we can reach out and touch the roof of our galaxy. The other way, they act as a magnifying glass, enabling us to look at what we think we already know in sometimes uneasy detail. Reynolds plays with our perspective right from the start of his collection in ‘‘Spring Night in Caledon’’, where we begin with our attention focused on a vegetable (‘‘Spring comes up like an onion’’) and end with that vast galaxy view (‘‘I no longer know how I saw the world yesterday.’’). In between, he sticks our noses in dung and rotting garbage and makes our eyes water along with his own.’

—Joanna Lilley, The Northern Review

Review quote

‘Beautifully crystallized, the images in Slant Room evoke a frozen scene, one where the animal and human worlds study each other in a fierce quiet. Reynolds writes with stunning word economy, at times writing poems of no more than twenty words; yet these few words are still capable of conjuring a small world... Reynolds makes a careful study of the stanza in Slant Room, using the spare couplet in places of particular quiet. ‘‘A question yawns / the forest bedrock,’’ opens ‘‘Ouiment Canyon;’’ ‘‘Poplar buds hover / like warm breath around the branches.’’ Here, Reynolds’ compressed, vivid language couples with short, end-stopped stanzas to call forth the frozen stillness of winter. In contrast to the quick scene-holding couplets that characterize early portions of the collection, long and sprawling stanzas appear later in Slant Room, examining the power of sound... Reynolds crafts a small and complicated universe of beauty, one cold and still yet impossible not to find marvelous. His focus on compact language draws his imagery to the fore, making Slant Room a study of place as much as it is a meditation on survival -- and a collection for interested readers of not only poetry, but of nature and environmental writing as well.’

—Rachel Mennies, ForeWord Reviews

Review quote

‘Michael Eden Reynolds’s debut collection, Slant Room, leaves little room for improvement. It’s a solid first offering from start to finish and explores compelling subject matter in ways that are economical yet never sterile. Reynolds’s poems could in a broad sense be termed mystical and even metaphysical, as his poetic speaker explores ways of being fully alive in the world.’

—Jesse Patrick Ferguson, The Fiddlehead

Review quote

‘Mouths and feet are the recurring images in SLANT Room, Michael Eden Reynold’s first book of poems. He connects us beautifully and intimately to the landscape of the Yukon by using feet and mouths, as well as fur and skin, moving smoothly and constantly between animal and person. ... What’s powerful about these poems is that Reynolds, through language and image, puts us directly into a sense of place -- there are no vague abstractions or theories. We’re simply there. And we cannot look away.’

—Emily Wall, Canadian Literature

Description for reader

‘Zach Wells, that fellow of strong opinions, first brought Michael Eden Reynolds to my attention. More than simply a freshness of voice, I read in Slant Room a longing: ‘What you see keeps receding, your breath/ in the morning air as you shift: one side, the other’, and a searching: ‘This is someone else’s dream you’re in,/ though the rustworn tune’s familiar as he carries your old bones through town’, and a celebration: ‘sun, our two-fisted heart,/ pulls open the cloud’. Fashion cycles, as we know, but if that seer of Modernism, Ezra Pound, said one true thing, that ‘Only emotion endures’, then I welcome you to the opportunity to come away from what Michael Reynolds has given us, with something enduring.’

—Wayne Clifford, author of Man in a Window (1965)

Flap copy

Reynolds’ poems have won the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize, and the John Haines Award for Poetry. He was also a finalist for the CBC Literary Awards in 2005, the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award in 2006, and The Malahat Review Long Poem Contest in 2007. His work has been anthologized in The Best of Canadian Poetry in English 2008, edited by Molly Peacock and Stephanie Bolster (Tightrope Books).

Excerpt from book


Sight is a bird
atop the spine.

Sleep is the twittering
of the closed eye.

There comes a river of fish
caught in dream’s light.

The bird spreads its wings.

Let it be a kingfisher,
to carry this body of dream into memory.

Let it be a tide of swifts in the gathering dusk
to dive like stars into that black cave.

Unpublished endorsement

‘Here is a poet whose eye and ear and heart are open to the pulsations of life on the planet and beyond. He realizes that the universe is larger than any poet, and humbly allows that universe to regain centre stage.... It takes me right to the heart of what finally matters, what will last: ‘‘Newborn and oldest thing, open the hollow syllable of your name to the wind’’. In its openness and timelessness, the poem honours the example set by John Haines.’

—Erling Friis-Baastad (citation from the John Haines award)


Michael Eden Reynolds was born in Ottawa in 1973, but spent most of his childhood in Caledon, Ontario. He attended the University of Guelph before taking a summer job as a breakfast cook in Dawson City, Yukon, in 1995. He travelled in Asia from 1999 to 2000. Since completing a social work degree at Yukon College in 2003, he’s worked as a supported-independent-living worker for adults with disabilities. Michael lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, with his wife Jenny and their two children.

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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POETRY / Canadian

POETRY / General

ISBN-13: 9780889843226

Publication Date: 2009-10-01

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 96

Price: $16.95