Hail, The Invisible Watchman is haunted poetry—Oliver’s formal schemes are as tidy as a picket-fence and as suggestive; behind the charm of rhyme is a vibrant, dark exploration of domestic and social alienation.
The poems in Hail, the Invisible Watchman are as tidy as a picket-fence—and as suggestive. Behind the charms of iambs lurks a dark exploration of domestic and social alienation. Metered rhyme sets the tone like a chilling piano score as insidiousness creeps into the neighbourhood. A spectral narrator surveils social gatherings in the town of Sherbet Lake; community members chime in, each revealing their various troubles and hypocrisies; an eerie reimagining of an Ethel Wilson novel follows a young woman into a taboo friendship with an enigmatic divorcée. In taut poetic structures across three succinct sections, Alexandra Oliver’s conflation of the mundane and the phantasmagoric produces a scintillating portrait of the suburban uncanny.
Alexandra Oliver was born in Vancouver, BC. She is the author of Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway (Biblioasis 2013, winner of the 2014 Pat Lowther Memorial Award), Let the Empire Down (Biblioasis 2016), and the chapbook On the Oven Sits a Maiden (Frog Hollow Press 2018). She is the co-editor (with Annie Finch) of Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters (Penguin Random House/Everyman’s Library 2015). A PhD candidate in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, she lives in Burlington, Ontario with her husband and son.
“This last sequence, a series of English sonnets spoken in the voices of two of [Ethel] Wilson’s characters as well as a third-person narrator, is particularly well realized. Oliver proves herself a master at her chosen form; the sonnet and its demanding rhyme scheme serve as a springboard for the narrative moments and reflections she depicts.” — Quill & Quire
“Oliver is a master of the punchy satirical pronouncement ... Her allusions are always exquisitely peppered, not merely clever mélanges of this and that, and her structures impeccable.” — Marrow Reviews
“Alexandra Oliver, Canada’s sublime formal poet, grabs centuries-old traditions by the throat and gives them a huge contemporary shaking in Hail, the Invisible Watchman. Terrifyingly clever, dazzlingly skilled, and chillingly accurate in her social observations, she plunges from lyric to narrative and back again in this, her third volume, where a housewife has 'a waist like a keyhole' and a 'good mood' has a 'scent.' But as wearing the perfect clothes can hide—for just so long—the wackiness of the personality beneath, the poet’s impeccable meters explode with desperate emotions. Oliver’s triumph comes as she takes the characters of a 1947 novel about a scandal and drops them into a stunning sonnet sequence. With Hail, the Invisible Watchman Oliver again alters the landscape of Canadian poetry.” — Molly Peacock, author of The Analyst