Against the Hard Angle – POEM PREVIEW – ‘last call at the midtown’


With matt’s NEW collection Against the Hard Angle due out from ECW Press in April 2010, sneak previews of some poems included in the book (1 per month) have been / will be appearing here at in December 2009, January 2010, February 2010, and March 2010

In Halifax, as in many Canadian cities, mid-winter can be a dreary time — a time when, perhaps, one or two pulls at a well-chilled bottle or finely poured pint of your favourite beer can be a welcome respite from the weather’s worst, or from Valentine’s Day’s trappings, or whatever else the year’s shortest month has seen fit to throw at you. On that note, here’s February 2010’s sneak peek from the forthcoming collection: a short poem called ‘last call at the midtown’  a lyric nod to Halifax’s recently relocated Midtown Tavern, an institution of something more than minor fame.




– Midtown Tavern and Grill Ltd, Grafton Street; Halifax, NS


this, our last hour of loose lips and spills

scarcely noted by anything other

than some faux-florid fingering – hand-slurred

slapdashery – of an air gravy-humid

and stale with steak, with

sweat.             we nod.             eye

contact a contract, an order placed, here.

            look: these slicked hops slosh; skip, jump and

then crest the false

dikes of our flourished half pints

with each tabled fist that smack gavels these

spill-shellacked arborites, those tipsy

chipped edges our now-buckled knees will soon know

are slump-lumbered and

resting on near even legs.            a toast. a toast!

(we order in twos; hands arc the deluge.)


 The two sections that comprise matt robinson’s fourth full-length volume of poetry, Against the Hard Angle, though disparate in terms of form – the first consisting primarily of a long poem; the other a collection of shorter lyrical pieces – nonetheless share a common concern with ideas of relationship and its examination. At their core, these are poems about where we stand in relation to the rest of our various worlds.

  In the collection’s opening section, the eponymous (and 2009 Malahat Review Long Poem Award winning) “against the hard angle” steadily develops a grudging momentum, all the while searching for a way to articulate loss, in the end becoming a kind of meditative catalogue of relationship breakdown and divorce.

The second section takes as its immediate subject matter a different sort of relationship altogether. Having returned home after nearly a decade elsewhere, these are poems that reference robinson’s native Halifax, NS, more specifically and vividly than in his previous work; these are lines with “the near / magical pull of some deep-seeded magnet now spinning, / we’d guess, completely / and fully out of control – a crazed, elemental / ballet.”

Part extended love song to and for a city and part meditation on what a city can both say to and about us, Against the Hard Angle uses some of Halifax’s most and least famous places as jumping off points for a stop-and-start lyrical tour of eastern Canada’s largest urban centre, a sometimes fraught journey that leaves us “all tendon-tensed, / against impact, near white-knuckled to / breakage.”





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