review by Mala Rai: These Are the People in Your Neighbourhood by Jordan Trethewey

review of THESE ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD by Jordan Trethewey, originally published in Miramichi Reader at

These Are the People In Your Neighbourhood by Jordan Trethewey

Jordan Trethewey’s tribute to the people of Fredericton, a city I have never been to,  travelled nearly 5400km westward for a curious read. Civic poetry is a unique way of getting the scoop on what to really pay attention to in an unfamiliar space: the people. In reading about people from away (from me, at least), we get to learn something pretty nifty: Frederictonians! They are just like us! Strip away the named location, and these poems may as well be familiar and relatable to those living in many west coast cities and towns. The beauty of this 2021 – 2024 poet laureate’s work is that it is accessible to all — not just a love letter to Fredericton, but a gift for anyone to pick up and feel seen. Intimate themes of family, grief, immigrant loneliness, relationships requited and unrequited, obstacles overcome and succumbed to are just a few which echo throughout this collection. What makes this work even more special is that each poem is a tribute to a real person, living or dead, or to Fredericton itself.

To turn these strangers into neighbours, Trethewey crafts each poem with a unique voice to represent the recipient of its dedication. In “Passion Begets (for Matt Carter)”, we can hear Matt listening to CBC’s Brave New Waves in the 80s, making that first perhaps grudging realization when we notice a bit of our parents in our teenage selves. In “Sitting Outside a Bank Kiosk, Embarrassing Money in My Hand (for Keegan Burgess)”, we feel Keegan’s  guilt as he puts his own worries aside and acknowledges a street busker and addict with the gift of attention. We see Caelia Sutton in “Twin Flames from Dying Embers”, an abusive relationship survivor making meaningful reconnection on a new path to love.

Many of these works are delivered with engaging storytelling. There is no need for deep analysis and interpretation of what the poet is trying to convey. Each poem is someone’s personal story, and they are shared generously. In “Adversity Builds (For Bob Dewar)”:


In hospital that day, one floor below,


Bob’s son is born. Prompts his mantra;


be calm in the face of adversity,


and there’s a lot of adversity.


The stanzas capture scenes from an episode in the life of someone you could know. We don’t need to know THEE Bob, but we might encounter someone like him rather easily. Maybe we are Bob.

After every few poems, there are vivid cityscape and neighbourhood scenes depicted in watercolour artwork inserts by Eva Christensen. And much like Trethewey’s poems, these images reflect something very inviting and charming. At times, there is an an aesthetic familiarity of one’s local cafe or pub. When we travel, it’s natural to seek out such places offering community. If you’re lucky, you may not need to travel all that far. Hopefully it’s in your neighbourhood.


Fredericton Poet Laureate Jordan Trethewey (2021-2024) lives in Nashwaaksis, with his wife, son, and daughter. Jordan writes poetry, drama, children’s literature, historical and short fiction. His writing appears in national and international journals…and on the right shoulder blade of a fan. He is an editor at the on-line literary journal Open Arts Forum. Some of his work is also translated in Vietnamese, Farsi, and French.

Publisher: Roadside Press (December 2023)
Watercolour Illustrations: Eva Christensen
Paperback 6″ x 9″ | 200 pages
ISBN: 979-8865775249

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