Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A review of Turning Left to the Ladies

Published in Fernie Fix (July 2011) Part of the review can be found below, written by Angie Abdou. The on-line version can be found here.

"I could throw adjectives at Kate’s work (genuine, original, important, honest, brave, risky, and beautiful are the first to pop to mind), but instead I’ll recommend that you read it.

Start with Turning Left to the Ladies – a 2009 book of poems inspired by Kate’s experiences as a construction worker and carpenter in the 1970s and 80s when such labour trades were very clearly delineated as “men’s work.” Kate Braid was the first female member of the Vancouver union local of the Carpenters and the first full-time woman teaching trades at the BC Institute of Technology. Turning Left to the Ladies chronicles these years with cutting insight, sharp humour, and an ability to transform intensely personal experiences into art. These are not raged filled poems complaining of the hostility, the sexism, and the lewd sexual innuendo in the work place. All those things are present, but the poems surprise with their humour, humanity, and compassion – for all sides. Kate Braid treats a heavy topic with a perfectly light touch.

One could say that Turning Left to the Ladies tracks the immigrant’s experience – a woman immigrant in the world of men. She is a “Spy” in a nation not her own: “I parachute into man’s country/ hoist a beer in the bar as if a native.” But no matter how deft the female carpenter becomes at imitating the ways of men, she can never assimilate entirely: “It’s only a small slip under the radar/ when I turn left to go to the Ladies.”

Don’t, though, think this world of hammers and nails and lack of male hospitability will be one without music. There is music everywhere in these poems. Braid brings us the song of construction: “Got the rhythm, kid, you got it now?/ You’ve got to love a job that’s got/ this much rhythm,/ this much swing.”"