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KARLA MASS: The week's most talked about book


The guys share barroom brawls and stale relationships with fathers who are wounded by grief and regret; and here in Hamilton, close attachments are often ignored or avoided. Hard work and booze (Nick calls it aggravation in a bottle), are substitutes for love and loyalty.

Poet Michael Knox launches a raunchy collection of narrative poetry that exudes masculinity and harsh words without mercy. Characters bear their souls with sharp voices and relentless, no-holds-barred dialogue. His use of metaphors and imagery are as sharp as his characters' tongues: The Macfarlanes, The Boys, The Girls and The Rest. They have something to say and even more to reveal about themselves and each other. Gut-wrenching, first-person accounts of life in and outside of Hamilton are powerful.

There’s not much to the north end of Hamilton. The factory town boasts steel-toe-boot-wearing, blue-collar workers who punch a clock at the industrial steel mill; ships that dock at a nearby harbour in clear view of the industrial yard; and railroad tracks that criss-cross throughout the neighborhood.

Nick spends a lot of his free time in a boxing ring with his sparring partner, Lincoln. This tough guy knows how to throw a punch, and he provides Nick with an outlet for his pent-up frustrations ... something most of the young men living here desperately need.


Nick picks headgear from the rack

pulls the moist lump of it around his head,

pumps two sixteen-ounce gloves together

and slips through the ropes.

Lincoln hasn't even got his wrists wrapped,

he sits on a bench and doesn't look once

at Nick's footwork while he binds them.

The only time Lincoln is expressionless

is sparring. The stark beel clenches his focus,

punctuates the present,

and he flies to meet Nick in the centre.



I learned marriage from my father

though I'm not married

When you're with someone you hate

you accept and forget

to stay sane ...

Knox examines fatherhood and love under a poetic microscope. He dissects pent-up feelings and unresolved issues that permeate the relationships between Nick and his father, Jimmy, and Ronnie and his father, Ronan. Ronnie and Jen have fought since the beginning of their relationship and now they simply avoid each other, while Johnny and Helen attempt to move forward, each convinced that the other stole their youth. Stanzas end as they began ... with characters stuck in a state of complacency.

The characters and conflict are so familiar in Knox's lyrics, readers may catch a glimpse of themselves in similar unhealthy attachments. His poetry is therapeutic and a reminder that difficult love is sometimes unavoidable. Knox delivers a knock out.


The North End Poems



Publication Date:

Listen to an excerpt from The North End Poems


Metropolitan Tang poems

Author: Linda Bamber

Publisher: Black Sparrow Books

Publication Date: February 2008

Don't Bump the Glump! And Other Fantasies

Author: Shel Silverstein

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: March 2008

Slantwise: Poems

Author: Betty Adcock

Publisher: Louisiana State University Press

Publication Date: March 2008

"The Week's Most Talked About Book" is a weekly book review and literary criticism column that publishes every Friday. Selected titles are based on popularity, public opinion, research and observation. Questions, comments and suggestions should be sent to book lover and columnist Karla Mass at She is a content producer for McClatchy Interactive.