Clear imagery, cryptic meaning in Safely Home Pacific Western

Photo courtesy of Goose Lane Editions.
Photo courtesy of Goose Lane Editions.
Photo courtesy of Goose Lane Editions.

Travelling through time and across continents, Jeff Latosik’s second poetry collection, Safely Home Pacific Western, is an explorative journey. Latosik reflects on his own life and experiences while questioning humankind and its many complexities.

Unanswered questions and ambiguous meanings run rampant throughout the poems, but somehow Latosik never loses sight of his audience, keeping them safely buckled in for the ride.

The poet’s previous collection, Tiny, Frantic, Stronger, received high praise from Canada’s poetically inclined, earning him the 2011 Trillium Award for Poetry. The award is given annually to Ontarian authors of all genres. Latosik shares his fame with past winners Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, and Michael Ondaatje.

Latosik’s poems cover a myriad of topics, including authenticity, gentrification, the tradition and history of music, and relationships. In “Signage,” Latosik describes the gentrification and development of our changing cities. He laments the loss of what was once familiar: “What’s there now: Sak’s convenience boarded up, seized by the city.”

The city is “transmogrified” in the blink of an eye, leaving the poet wondering if his senses lied, or if he was “serving an unusual punishment in heaven.”

Latosik’s poems are not static. As the title of the book suggests, the poems’ subjects and locations are constantly in flux. In “Safely Home Pacific Western (I),” Latosik sets the poem’s theme and situation in one place, then drifts off to another, a tendency he maintains throughout the collection.

Here, the poem begins in a numbered seat of an airplane, destination unspecified. “New coordinates and years slacken like a wave,” he describes; and just like that, we are transported to a different time, place, and experience. The poem oscillates between memories and the present, highlighting the poet’s struggle to live in the moment and the way that our past shapes our current and future experiences.

Some of Latosik’s poems have an easily discernable meaning, but others are a cryptic jumble of metaphors that I, for one, could not figure out. Regardless, there was always a nugget of imagery or human experience to latch onto.

“Aubade Photoshop” could be about several things, and the fluid nature of Latosik’s poems suggests more than one meaning. Amid the confusion, however, are moments of striking clarity — imagery so relatable that readers will feel a sense of stability amongst the ever-changing landscape of Latosik’s poems. Though His meaning may never become clear, readers of Safely Home Pacific Western will inevitably find their own, as long as they’re up for the ride.