Talking to Strangers

Talking to Strangers

A review of Talking to Strangers by Rhea Tregebov

Published on March 14, 2024

To be a flower in Rhea Tregebov’s garden, a bird in her window, a passerby on the street, is to be loved indiscriminately. This generosity of feeling is palpable in every line of Talking to Strangers, the eighth book by an enduring voice in Canadian poetry. The collection proceeds in a series of short, narrative poems, cataloguing a life led in search of love and found in unlikely places. 

Talking to Strangers
Rhea Tregebov

Véhicule Press

The eponymous strangers are a motley crew –  rambling hippies, weeping widows, drunkards, IDF soldiers – some more immediately sympathetic than others. Yet, strangers are not always unknown, as several more intimate poems on family, aging, and loss remind us. Often, we find ourselves feeling estranged from those closest to us. More often we are strangers to ourselves. 

The simplest things 

elude me. 

What was the life I had. 


Today I don’t 

know where I stand […]


today might be yesterday and I 

the girl waiting for her life. 

Many of the poems are situational, moving from the particulars of observation to a moral quandary answered in the final lines. While quaintly touching, this formula often falls flat – too immediate, too neat – each poem striving for a kind of internal closure that leaves the thread of the collection difficult to sustain at book length. 

What joins the poems is Tregebov’s characteristic tenderness and enviable capacity for sympathy. Central to this persona of quiet confidant is the death of her sister, a theme which dominates the collection’s final section, the strongest despite its brevity. These elegies formed from minutiae do not arrive at easy answers, but recall the all too human capacity to seek familiarity in the strange, especially in times of strife. In these moments Tregebov softly asserts herself as both witness to and companion in sorrow. Against the immensity of her grief, is the possibility of love’s consolation, whispered as if into a mirror. Remind yourself: “we don’t need love to be a thing / we can put our hands on to trust.”mRb

Ronny Litvack-Katzman is a writer and poet who, after a decade in Montreal, still gets lost in the Metro. He recently graduated with a MA in English from McGill University.



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