cover image Hacker Packer

Hacker Packer

Cassidy McFadzean. McClelland & Stewart (Penguin Random House, North American dist.), $18.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-7710-5722-9

McFadzean's debut collection is a finely layered exploration of language and archetype rooted in mythology, history, intimate reflections, and more external ghosts. In its strata lie both discrete and delicately interwoven strands: the medieval Unicorn Tapestries are given galloping, irreverent voice; fire and water become focal points for meditations on identity and change; underworlds and iconography of the dead vie with depictions of Romanesques turned viciously on their heads, piety, and sainthood; and the intrusion and seamless melding of the modern upon the historical. Through the whole runs a vein of recurring notes%E2%80%94a conversation held between the silt of the book's internal, delineated eras in both text and subtext. It is examined most directly in the naming puzzles in "I Smile Earwide," "His Arms Primed," "Leave Her and She Swells," "Beneath a Golden Altar," and "Born of a Wolf." Other, subtler notes also pervade, their presence giving the book a holistic cast rendered in bronze, atria, ossuaries, and gnosis. It is all unearthed in deliciously adroit wordplay and exploration of form, capped off in two perfect, mirrored closing notes%E2%80%94one long, one short%E2%80%94that leave the tongue still thirsty, tasting peaty, tilled earth. A most satisfying and accomplished collection. (Apr.)