& dear to my heart

KFB | REVIEW

HEART & MOUTH & DEED & LIFE  JM FRANCHETEAU

Anstruther Press, 2018.

I’ve been involved in Toronto’s small press scene for a few years now, and in those short few years, Anstruther Press has been a beacon for chapbook presses all around. In Toronto “Anstruther” has become  virtually synonymous with “Chapbooks”, inspiring countless amateur publishers to fully burgeon into “presses”. Looking through their recently released fall titles, I noticed a name very dear to my heart.

I’m gonna set the scene for you: A few years ago, around the same time when I first started attending open mics around the city, a young man packed his bags and moved from Ottawa to Toronto. One night, after getting off work quite late, he decides to drop in to an open mic series and read at the very last slot. The bar is quite full, but apart from the open mic host and a select few devoted fans of the series, the rest are musicians, there to see a band. He steps up to the mic, unsheathes his phone and reads a couple poems, battling the screams of the raucous crowd, half of whom step out for a cigarette midway through his set.

I fell in love with JM Francheteau’s poetry that very evening, where he listed off the intricacies of one of the worst parties he’s ever been to with persistent empathy; a defining feature of his work that can be seen in his most recent chapbook Heart & Mouth & Deed & Life. In his poetry, people are flawed, quirky and organic; infinitely redeemable. His is a poetry without judgment, void of anger or resentment.

There are some go reasonably,

Rotating their mental map

So their destination reels them in

Like a spindle reclaiming its yarn,

And some write poems

‘cause they can’t compose themselves

For emails, and either’s alright.

Heart & Mouth & Deed & Life is an ode to all those who came before, it’s a thank you letter to all friends, lovers and relatives whose pain taught us to keep going, its an intimate portrait of the beauty in our struggle.

thanks to those who taught me

My own taste              accidentally

                        With a kiss.

You turned me to alchemical fire,

                                                           Mercurial

                                   And brief,

Throughout the chapbook, the charm of certain childish explorations is always met with morbid realism. Francheteau’s explorations of urban life showcase our inner children trapped in situations antithetical to our nature.

you can’t lick your elbow.

Let me help. It tastes

Like a small knee.

Right breast my hospital,

Left breast my funeral,

A stethoscope creating

The silver room in my ear

Where your heart

Stretches its size

Francheteau’s poems often follow a similar path where the poetic “I” is dissolved in the routine struggles of the zeitgeist, and by the end of each poem, the reader has witnessed growth; which is where his intimate personal touch is added.

A poem starting out in the open:

as one hidden sniper realizes another

In the glint of sun off scope,

I alighted on your anger first”

And ending in the intimate:

like coming upon a beartrap

In the woods

Still clutching a severed foot,

You taught me what it costs

To be free.

Francheteau is a prolific writer, his poems vary in style and substance but they never cease to impress. Heart & Mouth & Deed & Life is a book with a lot of heart and a lot of courage. you can pick it up assured that the words won’t judge you.

I do not absolve you

For accepting the birthright

Of all those who happened to be born free

And I do not condemn you.

It was in the milk and the similac,

And the air and the music,

What kindness there was

Or was not.

KHASHAYAR MOHAMMADI IS AN IRANIAN-BORN WRITER/TRANSLATOR BASED IN TORONTO, CURRENTLY AN EDITOR AT INSPIRITUS PRESS. THEIR MOST RECENT PUBLICATION IS MOE’S SKIN (ZED PRESS, 2018). DEAR KESTREL IS BEING PUBLISHED BY KNIFE | FORK | BOOK SPRING 2019.

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