Holiday Gift Guide: Poems for the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names by Soraya Peerbaye

The thing that first attracted me to Soraya Peerbaye’s debut collection was its title. Let’s face it: Poems for the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (Gooselane Editions) is, on the surface of things, such an odd thng to call a collection of poetry, it’s almost ludicrous. As much as I might have wished to walk away from the slender volume, I couldn’t. The name held me fast.

As it turns out, the title comes from the book’s fourth section, the part that deals with a trip Peerbaye took to the Antarctic Peninsula. “Horizon pulls: a trick knot. The seal undoes itself.”

As much as the crazy title might have been the thing that initially drew me, Peerbaye’s writing convinced me in a moment. I offer the opening stanza of “Zistoire,” the first poem in the collection, by way of example:

I’ve learned that the story comes from the invitation to come in. The embrace, his cheek against mine, the stubbled feel of a sun-hollowed sea urchin. He leaves his shoes at the door, hangs hit coat on the banister; I put on the kettle. The story comes from the invitation to come in.

Though the poems that make up the collection are quite different in style and meter and substance, Peerbaye’s writing is consistently muscular and ephemeral, two adjectives that would seem not to belong together in the same sentence yet, somehow, with this writer’s work, it does. As I said, this is a debut, and it’s wonderful. I can’t even imagine what comes next.

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