Jennifer Houle's debut collection, The Back Channels, reflects the effort to build a meaningful life in a rapidly changing culture, in a region afflicted, as many are, with outmigration and an economy of anxiety and hard choices. Here, the past is "almost all there is," becoming "our only source of light" as she takes us to the backwoods where a discouraged woman walks, the shore beyond the fairgrounds, "the tire swings, car lots and empty lodges ranged /in crude half-circles like small handfuls of thrown bones," and the parking lots where smokers gather to talk about layoffs or pay cuts. Her poems invite the reader to listen in on these moments and pause among these landscapes, never mistaking its often rural settings for places of retreat or escape. The largely Acadian culture depicted in these poems may still be influenced by the past, caught in its own reflected image, but it moves, as do the poems, to a steady, if moody, rhythm determined to find meaning and purpose in spite of difficulties, flux, and a seemingly pervasive cynicism. Reminiscent of Karen Solie's early work, Houle's brilliance as a poet is her mastery of language and keen sense of observation with which she draws the reader in. These poems come from a place of grappling, an attempt to find meaning, beauty, and connection in the day-to-day, without being confined by it.
About the author
Jennifer Houle grew up in Shediac, New Brunswick and now lives near Fredericton. She is the author of two books of poetry, The Back Channels (2016) and Virga (2019), and has won numerous awards for her writing (J.M. Abraham Poetry Award, Fiddlehead Poetry Book Prize, etc.). A mother of two, she is also an active member of the literary community. Un logis pour Molly is her first illustrated book.