Poetry: The History Of Water

The History of Water, Denis Robillard, Cranberry Tree Press, 2015.

Review by Cassie Guinan.


When I hear “water,” I think of the tap. The first sip of water after drinking a large coffee. Showering after a few days without. Then, I think of the ocean: salty, strong, primordial. Denis Robillard’s poetry collection, The History of Water, tells a different story.

Robillard begins and ends the History of Water with his conception. Considering the title, I find it interesting to enter at this point. In a way, it reminds me of how someone might start a bio, describing where they were born, or how their parents met. This personal approach to telling a history rings true for me; it’s human, honest, and a little one-sided. Reproduction is also cyclical.

The theme of water aside, much of this collection deals with dreams and philosophy of the mind. Robillard often grounds his poems with something familiar, but his words may surprise you. I’m talking about funny, yet effective, word combinations like “curvaceous nails” and “a lone white room imbued with insane paint.” The originality and light humour of this collection are what pull me in. But occasionally, his poems are super-saturated with classical references which come off as slightly pretentious or out of place.

The History of Water is a creative, thought-provoking first collection. Robillard shares an enjoyable, homogeneous series of poems without getting bogged down by a theme.

Tom (Cassie's dog) sleeping with a book on him.

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