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Praise for God of Missed Connections
Ukraine's troubled history is at the centre of this book. The explosion of nuclear reactor number four at the infamous Chernobyl plant infuses Bachinsky's poems with its destructive, future-eradicating energies … enviably good.
–Mark Callanan, Quill and Quire
Reminiscent of Gwendolyn MacEwen's "Dark Pines Under Water," Bachinsky's poem "God of Missed Connections" employs changing metaphors to reveal her conception of the nature of the mind and unconscious. Unlike MacEwen's poem, which creates an implicit metaphor in the landscape it describes, Bachinsky likens the mind to a alluvial plain with layers of geological markings, only to depart from this ingenious concept and find another analogy in "split obsidium," whose variant smoothness becomes an image for the mind looking back at itself.
–Gillian Harding-Russell, Prairie Fire
God of Missed Connections (Nightwood, 2009) is Elizabeth Bachinsky's third collection of poetry and the follow-up to 2006's Governor General's nominated Home of Sudden Service (Nightwood, 2006), which won unanimous praise from critics across the country due, in large part, to its mixing of taught formal structures and sassy-sexy, rough-and-tumble, colloquial language that made available the unique psychological depths of otherwise fungible characters, particularly young people in the habit of self-eulogizing their lost youths far too early. With God of Missed Connections, Bachinsky broadens her scope, turning to a more dauntingly large subject matter: what T.S. Eliot dubs the "cunning passages" and "contrived corridors" of history – in particular, the history of Ukrainians in Canada. As she writes in her "Postscript," "The history of Ukraine and of Ukrainians in Canada is fraught with tragedy, warfare, ethnic conflicts, racism, anti-Semitism, political intrigue, ecological disasters." Smartly, Bachinsky balances the inevitable listing of history's ethnic ship by considering the Ukrainian-Canadian experience vis-à-vis her own family …
–Alessandro Porco, Northern Poetry Review
Bachinsky has won deserved admiration for her work, full of guts and verve, spunk and nerve. She utilizes a straight-shooting, straight-talking vocabulary and combines it with the world-weary wisdom of a Ukrainian, a people who have experienced grievous injustice in all ways … Bachinsky’s third poetry collection [has that] rough beauty, sinuous toughness, of make-do carpentry that works.
–George Elliott Clarke, Halifax Chronicle-Herald
The poems cover Bachinsky's family history and Stephen Leacock's casual racism, Canadian internment camps and forced starvation in the old country. The Bread Basket of Europe gives new, terrifying meaning to a cliché I often heard growing up. She makes poignant use of the word Holodomor (or "murder by hunger," referring to the millions who starved to death under Stalin).
–Quentin Mills-Fenn, Uptown Magazine, Winnipeg's Online Source for Arts, Entertainment & News
Form-wise, Bachinsky is still at play in God of Missed Connections, incorporating everything from lyrical incantations and dramatic monologues to terse journal entries and passages quoted from archival sources. But there's nothing playful about her subject matter. Bachinsky lays bare many sorrows in what she calls 'the midden' of her heritage, including the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986 … She also focuses on the internment of Ukrainian Canadians in labour camps in Banff during the World War I … Elsewhere, themes of loss and hunger are echoed obliquely in poems about contemporary urban life. (In her postscript, Bachinsky explains that she felt engaging with the past required her to give a sense of her own time and place. This is convenient, since her greatest strength is her sharp, sardonic way with modern vernacular.) … God of Missed Connections is Bachinsky's way of planting a signpost. It leaves a distinct impression.
–Barb Carey, The Toronto Star
Miscommunication can lead to missing something that could have been magical. God of Missed Connections is the third collection of poetry from Elizabeth Bachinsky, an award-winning and widely published poet. Her acclaim is not unfounded, as readers will soon find out and enjoy reading God of Missed Connections.
–James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review (Wisconsin)
There's a confident, edgy humour throughout the collection, in spite of the darkness of the subject matter, and on the whole Bachinsky balances the tone precisely. Her control over form – and her willingness to bend form when necessary – ultimately make God of Missed Connections a deeply moving and tremendously satisfying read.
–Mitchell Parry, The Malahat Review
Like the journeys she describes, Bachinsky leads the readers on a difficult yet rewarding path through a people’s history, through personal stories, and through her own life. There is however, something beautiful and human about the conflicted pilgrimage that she has captured here that ought to be read and ought to be remembered.
–Nick Schuurman, Re:verse
Elizabeth Bachinsky’s God of Missed Connections offers up a history worth thinking about. Beautiful, sprawling and melancholy, the book is a discovery of the author’s Ukrainian ancestry that calls up the complicated and diasporic evolution of a transient people. Bachinsky’s poetry is loose but careful as she thumbs over memories, real and imagined, of her family’s migration to Canada during the First World War.
The volume leads us through their journey, from starving, impoverished days in a war-stricken Ukraine, to years spent in a Canadian internment camp, to Bachinsky’s own fretting and fawning in present-day Vancouver. The troubled and neurotic search for origins is a common theme in Canadian poetry, and why shouldn’t it be? Our vast country resists the definition of a national personality, leaving plenty of space for questioning. The problem is the self-indulgent book that introspectively paws over family stories, with only a nod to literary or philosophic concerns.
Thankfully, Bachinsky adds value to the genre, having produced a work that is equally a study of heritage and the nature of memory itself. A lesson on the latter is artfully prescribed in the titular poem, “God of Missed Connections,” where the poet likens the mind to stone on which nothing can stick or grow, and to glass that does not reflect—absorptive, and self-absorbed. This alert consideration of the modern mind is pertinent to Bachinsky’s interest in the poet’s obligation to history. When our internment camps have been cleared out, grown over, and are opened to the public as national parks, Bachinsky wonders, do we have a responsibility to keep writing about the past?
Unequivocally, the answer is yes. After all, history repeats itself in surprising and unexpected ways. The poem “Young Faggots” suggests that only “faggots knew what it was like to watch everyone they love die off, just like that,” hinting that the war may be over, but our human struggle persists. God of Missed Connections is a formidable work from this young poet: a considered and important contribution to the quintessential dialogue on Canada’s fractured collective history.
–Deanne Beattie, Vancouver Review
Bachinsky is unafraid to divulge her impressionable nature as a seeker of truth, rather than a professor of it. Many poems are strikingly original and candid; others can be coy, opaque. At its best, Bachinsky’s work is a shining example of how poetry can be more revelatory than prose.
A collection of poems that is just as charming read to onself as read aloud. Chernobyl, bad jobs, family connections, identity, swimming and beauty written against the alternating backdrops of Vancouver, Regina, Belarus … For anyone who craves poetry, a lovely and inspiring gift.
—Recommended by Megan Adam at Advent Books
As readers, we are enriched by this careful willingness to ask, to interrogate. Reading God of Missed Connections means to follow a curious line of questioning, but one leading to lasting rewards: those of witnessing a private and public history combine, transform, and ultimately mirror our own.
—Spencer Gordon, Mansfield Revue
The best books of poetry build a self-contained world of reason and meaning through the order of the poems … Boundaries between nationalities, discourse levels and histories become permeable through the pacing of this book … What we see in [God of Missed Connections], and what is illuminated, we can’t shake off.
–Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Poetry Is Dead
This author left me wanting more … unique and effective. Good job, Elizabeth. You have been an agent of healing and that, after all, is the goal of all healers, all poets.
–Rena Hanchuk, ACUA Vitae