USEREVIEW 096 (Capsule): Renaissance Normcore

Michael Russell/ September 28, 2022/ Book Review, Capsule Review

Adèle Barclay
Renaissance Normcore (Nightwood Editions, 2019)
ISBN 978-0-88971-360-4 | 96 pp | $18.95 CAD | BUY Here


Early in the pandemic, when numbness and lethargy felt like a communal experience, I reread Adèle Barclay’s sophomore poetry collection Renaissance Normcore. I needed something familiar to nudge me back into feeling and Barclay’s work welcomed the plunge. Rereading Renaissance Normcore felt like an impromptu pencil dive into cold, dark water. The initial shock was palpable but the body quickly adjusted as it swam through an oceanic world of trauma, emotions, queerness and echoes of music and the past. In the opening poem ‘You Don’t Have to Choose But You Do’ Barclay welcomes the reader to connect with their intuition “Would you rather be the sun or the moon? / Would you rather sing like Jenny Lewis / or Fiona Apple?” This gives the reader time to acclimate to what’s to come “Would you rather be blood or stone? / Would you rather receive or give a dick pic?” Violence, trauma and the repercussions of both are recurring themes throughout the book. Barclay often uses paradox, metaphor, wit and humour to invite the reader to lean deeper into the page, to sit with private and intimate scenes where feelings stir, boil, condense, evaporate until “… salt, the only residue” (‘Burn it All Down with Water’).

Recommended excerpt:

I suggest checking out ‘Spell for Pisces New Moon’ which captures a lot of Renaissance Normcore’s layers in one poem.

Michael Russell (he / they) is Mama Bear to chapbook Grindr Opera (Frog Hollow Press, 2019). He’s queer, has BPD, Bipolar Disorder and way too much anxiety. His work has appeared in Arc Poetry, Heavy Feather Review, Plenitude and SICK Magazine, among other places. He lives in Toronto and thinks you’re fantabulous. More:

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