Gulf explores the nature of longing and belonging in a transient culture. From its opening assertion, “A neighborhood, no matter / how known, will not slip whole / into your knapsack,” the collection contends home is a portable assortment of minutiae: the taste of dirt, the solace of Home Depot, a pennant of bone. Opening on a child’s displacement, the poems loosely trace the author’s journey from American suburbia to small-town Canadian prairie, a transition aided by sardonic historical figures and a metric conversion chart. As the poems ricochet from coast to coast, Vryenhoek toes the U.S./Canadian border—“that thin line a wide gulf”— until crossing another gulf and arriving in Newfoundland, a place where being from/coming from away still holds sway in everyday dialogue.
Moving from solemn and meditative to saucy and irreverent, Gulf is a collision of natural elements and technology, native species and newcomers, the inevitable rending of families and the connective tissue of memory that ties us to place.