In her debut book of poetry Throwing the Diamond Hitch, Emily Ursuliak takes the reader on a lovely, gripping adventure through both her family history and the story of western Canada. Drawing from diaries kept by her grandmother and her grandmother’s best friend, Ursuliak re-constructs the two women’s odyssey (first by roadster, then by horseback) from Victoria to the prairies of Alberta and back again. In so doing, she captures moments of triumph, humour, intrigue, and warmth, and creates a truly engaging poetic tale for the reader to enjoy.
In terms of craft, two aspects stand out in the experience that is Throwing the Diamond Hitch: the author’s attention to detail, and her skilled use of humour. Ursuliak’s superb capacity for evocative description is encapsulated in such lines as “sweet clover sweat / bruised grass breath” in describing the aura of the women’s horses. Throughout the book, the reader is fully immersed in the experiences of the two protagonists, thanks to the author’s skill. As far as humour, Ursuliak’s talent is best demonstrated in the short poem “Getting Directions”, which vividly and hilariously describes a stubborn pack horse, holding up cars on the highway and steadily gazing at a road directions sign. This use of humour makes a singular contribution to the quality of Ursuliak’s work.
In writing Throwing the Diamond Hitch, Emily Ursuliak has produced a thoroughly enjoyable story through verse, and one which illuminates history from a profoundly unique perspective. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in vivid, luminous narrative poetry, and I greatly look forward to this author’s future works.