Woods Wolf Girl is an arresting new book of poems from Cornelia Hoogland. The plot that threads through the poems draws from Red Riding Hood, but the story is ultimately Canadian. It is a lyrical work that exposes the wilderness of the Canadian landscape to a new immigrant, and shows the equally dangerous transition from girlhood to womanhood.
Woods Wolf Girl retells the journey from mother’s house to grandmother’s house through the woods from the points of view of the girl and her immigrant mother. These poems occur on the path of experience: experience that may lurk in the form of wolf/men – who are especially dangerous to good girls. While the wolf is ultimately bad news (and then simply tired news, as in the scene in the grocery store), he initiates the girl into experience, the good with the bad.
But the woods of Hoogland’s poems also resist a static wolf; it has both cultural and real-life representations of wolves. Woods Wolf Girl not only leads the audience into the woods, the work aims to return the woods and mountains to the wild. Before the axe falls, the wolf leads LRRH into life – by pointing out where she is. However endangered, Canada’s vast tracts of wilderness still do have real wolves – an increasingly unique phenomenon in the world. Hiking the Swiss Alps a few years ago made clear to Hoogland the difference between a mountain that humans co-inhabit with wild animals, and one stripped of its wildness, its wild culture. Her research has taken her to Haida Gawaii and to Bella Bella on B.C.’s remote west coast, as well as to the Rocky Mts. in Banff, Alberta, to study wolves in the wild and to audio record their voices.
The results of her efforts are, perhaps, captured by the Governor-General award winning Canadian poet, Tim Lilburn, who awarded the poems first place in a national competition (Lichen literary journal), and wrote:
The precision of writing in this series is arresting, the poet managing to render what is almost nameless, the feel of a look, the surprising sense of expanding interiority as “unaccountable space.” The…scenes in the pieces are deftly drawn…the sensuality of each, their menace. But what is most admirable is that little of what is caught with such sensorial precision is wanted. The enjambment of engagement and repulsion is dizzying.
Woods Wolf Girl has been funded by the Ontario Art’s Council’s works-in-progress and writer’s reserve programs, and the League of Canadian Poets.
_____________________________________________________________________________For more information on Woods Wolf Girl, or to book a reading, visit Wolsak and Wynn