Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

“they bisect the frozen river,

vacant lots,

the barren school field —

all roads lead

to the Pit.”

– Desire Paths (Borin 3).

I was lucky enough to get to visit The Westminster Hotel, or as it’s affectionately called The Pit, when I visited Dawson City last fall. When my dad had visited the previous winter he talked about a place who’s only food was a “revolving case of hotdogs,” and after doing my research and finding out that The Pit was in fact the same place it became important to me to visit, a pink staple to this small northern town, even more so when I learned of Borin’s poetry collection.

I only visited The Pit once during my stay, so as a one time tourist what do I really know about Dawson or life way up north? What right do I have to comment on if Borin got it right? All I can saw is that there’s an honesty to The Pit that can’t be made up, one that someone who lives there, who’s watched and maybe even experienced life up there knows.

Borin’s collection is a love letter to The Pit in all it’s many complexities. From customers and staff to bathroom graffiti, burlesque dancers getting ready before their show, to the children of the staff to those struggling with addiction. The Pit is home to many, it welcomes without discrimination. And though it may be sad and dingy it’s home, it’s a comfort, The Pit itself as much a character as any of the people who are focused on.

God, I adored this collection. Reading it felt like being back in Dawson, a trip that meant so much to me and a place I now adore and hope to return to. Borin is a wonderful poet, being able to transport this and many other reader to that tiny once capital city of the Yukon, Borin’s words are one’s I’ll be returning to again and again, especially on nights I miss roaming the streets of Dawson.

58241501._SX318_Publication: March 31st 2021
Publisher: Nightwood Editions
Pages: 72 pages (Paperback)
Source: Owned
Genre: Non-Fiction, Poetry
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

Set in a small-town, sub-Arctic dive bar, this debut poetry collection explores the complexities of addiction and the person beneath, and the possibility of finding home and community in unexpected places. Among Borin’s poems are portraits of the bar’s regular customers and employees—recurring characters, like those who might appear in a dark and unconventional sitcom. The religious night janitor catalogues the day’s sins; the retired barmaid gussies up at the mirror; the regular customers and their regular habits are described to a new employee: “R has a two-drink limit. A likes a coaster. Remember, / Mrs. O takes a chilled pilsner glass / with her bottle of Blue.”
In the melancholy atmosphere of the bar and the rooms upstairs, the speakers of Borin’s poems find unexpected solace and belonging. The habits, the routine, the regulars, the predictability of it all brings some kind of chaotic order to chaotic life:
 We drink without even having to think about it,
            because it feels good
                                                to lose control,
                                                                                    feels like regaining it.

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