3 short reviews: Mac, Hansen, Brock

Reading a book of essays and reviews by Mary Dalton recently, I came across this paragraph: “A healthy literary culture is inhabited by reviewers who are greedy for poetry.” Yes indeed. Though at times I feel I’ve been too greedy in requesting books for review and get a tad overwhelmed amid all else, especially when I don’t truly think I am the “right reader” for the title under question and yet, I promised to review it, and I am mostly loyal to such duties, so I must.

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With that proviso, I currently have 8 titles I am reading and aiming to review pre summer as that’s when I take a social media break! So, these reviews will invariably be shorter than usual. And especially for these 3 because, like I admitted above, I don’t think I can do them total justice, not because they are lacking per se but because the subject matter of each: child soldiers, trickster soldiers, and alien soldiers (of sorts) is not really my thing. Keep that in mind. It may be yours. I hope it is! (years ago I found I couldn’t review a text by Natalie Zina Walschots as it was about video games or something. and I let myself down with this total resistance. so I’m resisting my resistence today! and of course, the more I write about the books, the more my mind opens).

Kathy Mac: Human Misunderstanding (Roseway Publishing, 2017). This text is a politically crucial experiment in engaging in the act of compare/contrast through which one can more readily feel empathy for the victimized. In three long prose-inflected poems, Mac explores the juxtapositions between Harry Potter and Omar Khadr, 18th c Hume illuminations of the mis-apprehensions between one person and another (my favourite sequence as it’s the most tangible and sensory (“This is one consistently observable effect I have had on you: you sleep well beside me. (But. In your experience, my type hurts [and hurts and hurts]),” and 12th c comments on two cases of torture and deportation in Canadian courts, a piece that attains an Alice In Wonderland-style tone as it seeks to discombobulate predictable response. Go to this book if you seek to think more deeply about the relationships between self and other in our world, a realm in which the complex metaphor one can weave between eras, histories, literatures and politics is nearly slack. Mac is a rare Canadian poet who is unabashed at bringing the depth of her morally probing and well-researched stances to her art.

A Tincture of Sunlight by Vivian Hansen (Frontenac House Poetry, 2017) thoroughly explores the persona of the Old Man, a being who appears, hauntingly, in pretty much every piece, whether narrative or lyric, toying with shifting line breaks, or being elaborated in solid chunks of prose as letters or historical excerpts. The relentless repetition of Old Man makes it a challenge at times not to be lulled beyond an attention to the important matter of the tale this trickster/ soldier/ biologist lives, one narrated by Lover, who textually caresses all key details. A fascinating journey of words and temporalities here, though I still preferred the tinier poems in which the focus is taut and moving as in Sequence: “Soughing,/the first snowflakes/whispering the plot to each other: this is how you reach the ground./Cover me, I’m going down./The crystallized torque,/spinning flakes,/snow, resting./Showing themselves approved/ to black winter air, prepared/for the white anxiety/of ice.” O yes the music in that last image!

David James Brock is definitely a strange one (which I’m cool with ;). His Ten Headed Alien (Buckrider Books, 2017) proved to be an acid extravaganza from a boy’s jizz of a Bradberian daydream where monsters are women with heads of fish, or flatbeds of pigs, or little punks or The Super Duper. Lines are tentacled and cut with robotic voices, repetitions, glossalia. Brock, being a musician, is stupendous with stanzas and breath and twisting melodic echoes between “enzyme” and “scream” and “puce” and “ecru.” Taut and punchy with near nil emotion as befits a tract about the end of humanity by a man in an Oryx and Crake-style spacesuit, his pew-pew forms serve to wham bam the reader in the ears even if their minds don’t fully “get it.” My faves are: “Woman with the Head of a Fish in Parkdale,” “I Only Eat What I Kill: Volume 2,” “Please help I’m at the edge of the world this morning,” “Newfoundland II,” and the whole sequence in which detritus is recorded for emptiness’s posterity, called “The Ruins.” Definitely not a common perambulation through the apocalpyse.

Ok, I ended up getting into these books more than planned. Good. Because me learning is the most selfish motivation I have for composing these reviews 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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George Moore: Two Titles

One of the distinct pleasures of touring a book is reading with those poets you may have never even heard of before. Prior to consuming mussels together in Lunenberg I only knew of George Moore as the poet Tammy Armstrong’s husband, a former American professor. But by the end of the Lexicon Books event, I had been made aware that not only had he chummed around with Ashbery and reads Jeffers but that he writes some most excellent poetry himself on subjects as diverse as motorcycles, Greece and saints (or are these all one and the same? ;), each densely textured lyric delivered with a charmingly gruff demeanour, one eyebrow cocked and Cohen (or was it Eastwood?) a veritable echo in his aura.

He proffered me his two most recent books, Children’s Drawings of the Universe (Salmon Poetry, 2015) and Saint Agnes Ouside the Walls (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and I proceeded to sink into their sweet mires (mines?) almost instantly, reveling in their sonorous parameters, their well-traveled and indubitably scholarly contents and their allusive bemusements. As there is truly a plethora of poetic riches in these texts, I’m just going to pick a poem from each one to say some of my somethings about, either because they stood out in form and music or….well that’s pretty much it as the subject alone does little in a poem for me.

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Three six-line stanzas. The first has angels in it, the second, insects, the third, humans. A stranger Great Chain of Being. The initial line is the only end-stopped, non-enjambed one and, as such, it contains the statement, the utter (ing) grief of the piece. The ear is sharply tuned to allieration in: “fill a small vial,” “twist the lid,” “storehouse for the self,” and “recusant youth.” It bongs with the difficult knowing Lawrence obtained with his snake, that stupid human urge to tamper with the natural order, dominate. As does the assonance of “ants/match/glass,” the rhyme then ringing the reality of “youth/truth” as the speaker is determined to “become the night” once more in his mind.

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Ahhh, the correct resonances of iambic pentameter! The first line sings in its waves of stress/unstress (though one could argue that “bring down” is a spondee), beckoning the reader to follow the scientific triad of five stanzas that fuse geology with the lyrical so carbons/calcium/emissions/chemicals/sulphide/geothermal dance with rains/rock/sea/air/sun/life/palm, melding Latinate with Anglo-Saxon. The line lengths elaborate on the crash, the carrying, the clearing and the breaking up, the surging enhanced by the fact that this piece is only two sentences long, nearly breathy with commas. As the poem proceeds it enacts the circling it mentions of ecological purification, closing with amplified chime in the words, “light/life,” then the near-rhyme of “mistakes/wastes,” so that the poem itself becomes that “simple island” it projects, of resolution and beauty.

Thanks George for your insatiable curiosities and impeccable ear.

For poetry must remain long in the realms of awe and its musics.

 

 

 

 

 

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M. Travis Lane’s Ash Steps & a little rant about Canpo ;)

“The lyric is a method of searching for something that cannot be found” Fanny Howe

 

Solid Things: New & Selected Poems, M. Travis Lane’s collection from 1989, was the first time I was compelled by her work, encountering the volume in the Burnaby Public Library when I was just beginning and bent on reading literally EVERYTHING, and eventually buying a copy myself so the visitations to her lyricism could be more regular. When, in 2002, she wrote a review of my book, The Wrecks of Eden for The Fiddlehead, I couldn’t have been more honoured. Reviews being one key currency of respect, both for the individual artist and for the art itself. In this country, it seems, we have issues in how we deal with the life-trajectory of our writers. Generally, they are allowed two instances of recognition (if they are this fortunate). One, at the start, especially if they emerge from academe. And the other, near the close of their lives (or just post their deaths if they die prematurely, as was the case with Gwendolyn MacEwen or Pat Lowther). The system says that the writer’s first book shall be lauded (often with the gushiest epithets such as stating the collection is “life altering,” presents us with “never before witnessed brilliance” or “offers up an already established voice”) as publication is so very often bound up with MFA programs, making the initial foray into publishing the sign of the system’s “success” and possibly the reason why someone would select one university over another. And then, after that, you’re mostly on your own, baby.

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A couple win awards, obtain writer in residences, bask a bit. The remainder may feel as if they are puking poems into a dark bucket in a lonely corner. For years. Or the writer can cease. Focus on RRSP’s instead. No one (or few) will notice. Not that “fame” is good for poetry however. Obscurity with only slight glimmers of “yes” from time to time is likely best for keeping the muse going. So, Lane. She’s carried on all these years and only now (at 83) is truly receiving more recognition, increased acknowledgement. As Shane Nielsen (who has been her recent editor and promoter) calls her on the Palimpsest Press website, she’s the “best Canadian poet you’ve never heard of.” But do the poems care? Probably not. Lane has continued to compose with quietly fierce persistence all this time. As with Ash Steps from 2012 (Cormorant Books), both tonalities and preoccupations echoing poets like P.K. Page, Wislawa Szymborska, William Stafford. A powerful book. Simple but never simplistic, no fireworks per se, but subtle slivers such as: “The horse’s penis scares me, with its star/on a mushroom cloud,” a plethora of Atlantic Canadian landscapes, quivering yearnings, unafeard attention to loss, even in weather: “The snow becomes more definite:/ white, black, and white.”

Never sentimental or only fleetingly so, in the contrast between moving lines like “Old age is one long funeral” and the more tangibly brutal realities of “And stuff/Just lots of stuff.” Cats ghost through. The sea. “Fog silts the river.” Or, curiously, “late street lamps/with their fragrance of moth-wing and cigarettes.” The mood conveys the subject matter more than actual, direct detail, but a poem such as “I have forgotten your name” sketches out a palliative care scene with unrelenting honesty: “our husbands were dying together/and our tired nurse was too harsh.” Then, on attending to another patient’s plight: “Did anyone ever visit him?/That pallid turkey sandwich, that/square milk – ” (o the perfectly cadenced line breaks and the resonant flatness of assonance!). And, in the end, the awful, necessary revelation: “The tears will come,/and they will be no good to her,/Or to anyone.” But reading this poetry is, somehow, because it refuses easy solace while still steeping the reader in the beautiful. And Lane persists in releasing more essential collections from where she is in the now.

So let us then acknowledge as many of the nows we can in what a poet sends out into the world, regardless of age, race, background. Only the poems, after all, really matter.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two longer chapbooks: Robinson & Armstrong

On my recent Atlantic Canada tour for “Dear Ghost,” (Wolsak & Wynn/Buckrider, 2017) I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of reading with two Nova Scotian poets, Matt Robinson at a little icecream & java shop in Halifax and Tammy Armstrong at Alice Burdick’s fantabulous bookstore in Lunenberg. Matt’s work, dryly witty, a Phillip Larkinesque room textured with Marianne Moore’s auditory and paratactic wallpaper; Tammy’s poems, lyrically patrician, a woven tapestry of the fragile animal kingdom and vast grasps of land. Both collections are perfect-bound chapbooks, each weighing in at around 40 pages, visually designed for the consummate “book-stroker,” and offering proportioned arrays of aurally ineluctable pieces.

Robinson is described as a “poet of the domestic” on the back of Some nights it’s entertainment; some other nights just work (Gaspereau Press, 2016), a still-rare kind of distinction for a male writer, yet it isn’t the content of the poems that so much sets him apart (hockey, weather, marriage, dogs) but his unyielding ear. Too often reviews don’t speak of poems AS POEMS when this is what matters (in fact, most don’t, which is like writing a restaurant review that speaks of where the food came from and how it looks on the plate but not what flavours it nor how it truly tastes!) Robinson’s sonnet, “Sunrise with Sea Monsters” for instance, offers not only a rendition of the classic form but also an avid ability with the line break and the dash’s wild energy, the defamiliarized descriptor (an “aperture’s squint-slurred re-framing”) and an ear quirked to sonority at every turn through alliteration (“making of meaning”) or that coupled with assonance (“limning of what it is we’ve been living”). Most poems fit on one page but are so tightly knitted they feel longer. Mainly, in the best sense. Like a rouillade composed of a range of tasty layers. Savour, savour.

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Armstrong’s The Varying Hare (#5 in Frog Hollow Press’s NB Chapbook series, 2018) is more like a strong cheese, melted down delicately (sorry, it must be dinnertime!). The poems are reminiscent somehow of P.K. Page’s in their eloquent elegance but are more exquisitely enmeshed in the inhuman world. Pieces have a resolute solitude about them, a fierce quiet that resides in strange and lovely descriptions, say of a hare in a Turner painting that slips from its hareness “like a thready coat…something fated under these swimmy skies/of paste pearl and soft cider.” A painterly eye indeed, evidenced time and again in uncanny colourizations, the horizon’s “slippery pearl glow” or (in my favorite poem here, “Of Blood and Wine, Blue Came Late”), the “candles burned to mazarine, then mulberry, then bridgewater.” Form yaws everywhere, “alll picktarnie, tarrock” but sound’s “mizzle” is resilient. Both these books, lengthy as Canadian poetry texts should ever be (please publishers, release MORE chapbooks, MORE pocket-size books!), will be returned to for their visceral delectabilities, their slow unfoldings.

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Two poets that arrived in the mail at the same time: Aidan Chafe & Patricia Young

Ben Lerner, in his caustically ironic book-length essay, The Hatred of Poetry, claims to repeat the beginning of Marianne Moore’s 1967 version of “Poetry”, the phrase, “I too, dislike it” over and over in his head each time he is confronted with a book or public reading, including when he faces his own, now seemingly paltry and insufficient work. It’s odd. Even when poetry is truly your life’s core passion there remains this sense of frustration, aggravation at its persistent ineffability, as if you can always sense a vast intention that fails in any poet’s poem. One doesn’t want to feel beset by this reaction, but at times it overwhelms. As for myself, having read so much  poetry over so many decades, I find I get irked quite easily at tired idiom, obvious cliche, lax form, or anything really that implies a lessened effort in the attempt to uniquely and powerfully convey. Which is always flawed anyway. Still.

Ok. So Aidan Chafe’s debut Short Histories of Light (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018), beautifully designed in silky black, with French sleeves and a repetition of fixtures on the cover, is a collection of lyrics mostly focused on hypocritical familial undercurrents, the torments of mental illness and its impact on patriarchal power structures and the suffusion of Catholicism within everyday environments (and even poetic forms). I already reviewed the book’s final section, “Sharpest Tooth”, [Sharpest Tooth: a chapbook by Aidan Chafe (Anstruther Press, 2016)] , so this review attends to the four sections that precede it, of which the strongest is the 2nd, “Psych Ward Hymnal.” Beginning with a found piece of definitions of depression that very nearly becomes a visual poem, so incredibly weighted the word appears, repeated in caps, on the page, this sequence deals with Chafe’s father’s mental illness and hospitalizations (another Vancouver poet who has dealt with such wrenching subject matter is Kevin Spenst). Particularly powerful is the David Foster Wallace pantoum, “Hell has Nothing to do with Fire” (“Nail a clock to the wall/Numbers that connect to nothing”), the poem “Chief Broom”, which fuses religion and mental illness when his grandma asks if he “can see Jesus/in the plastic fruit” and plays seriously with the language of recovery: “i’m cured, they say/i tell them i feel curated/then i’m released:/wingless/into that cold, complex/night,” the final stanza imploding from its hospitalized couplets and into the chaos of supposed freedom, and the titular long piece in parts, that is both hit & miss in its tenuous metaphors (for the former see: “I know what it means/to hold a frightened child -/like balancing an egg/on a tiny spoon” and for the latter – “I watch cashews parachute/like sawdust to the floor”). In other sections, I loved the creative litany of naming in “Diary of a Redhead,” “Vegastriction”‘s depiction of a homeless man – “his prickly smile stinging” – and “Commute” whose descriptive lines encapsulate the urban whirl perfectly. I found the section “Calculations for Catholics” the least effective part (likely as it is such a challenging ideology to make poetically engaging -as I am finding out to my own chagrin in a current project!) But the line in “Why God is a Father”  – “only a man can cause/so much pain for a woman and call it a gift” is truly thought-yankingly wow. Short Histories of Light is like a series of small doors into compelling, if preliminary, revelations that I hope Chafe will continue to lyrically enlarge as his writing life unfolds.

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Short Takes on the Apocalypse (Biblioasis, 2016), Patricia Young’s 12th collection, contains poems that springboard rampantly off quotations from writers on subjects as wildly varied as vegetarianism, divorce, film and paintings. When an entire book engages with quotations, each piece leaping from an overtly worded impetus, one wonders at times whether the author feels the need to have their material further validated by such secondary/intermediary means or if, instead, a vaster conversation is their aim. The method being so consistent, at least the content is diverse, a narrative-based array of Biblical and Classical re-envisionings, personal accounts, and entrees into artistic engagements. In forms from palindromes to pantoums, Young pirouettes her prose-style tonalities onto the page, complete with sly little winks towards almost everything in existence. Among the punchiest pieces are “What it was like Living in a Spaghetti Western” that starts and ends with “overcooked meatballs,” “Coachella Festival”‘s litany of absurd band names, the long couplet listings of “A few Questions to Consider”, about where characters go when one is done writing about them: “do they have gills…does flab settle on their bones…are they plant-eaters, are they bee-stung,” “Chagall’s Lovers” that concludes compellingly with “I’m talking to you the colour red,” the clever clicheed carnival of coupledom that is the foolery in “The Course of True (Animal) Love” and the zig-zag loopiness of “Petunia’s Pop-Up Alphabet Book” where A to Z is capped on a dash through one little girl’s necessary weirdnesses. O, and “Literary Soiree”, that attempt to contrast the strange binaries of Old and New Poetry, and perhaps sums up Young’s continued preference for what some might dub the former, with its symbols, its “mud hut of desire.” Regardless, Young continues to be one of the most experimentally buoyant, content-wise, of those stubbornly enduring narrative-based poets in Canada.

And so, Ben Lerner finalizes his disquisition by announcing: “All I ask the haters…is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems where…it might come to resemble love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bad Engine: New & Selected Poems by Michael Dennis (Anvil Press, 2017)

A New and Selected from a poet as underground and underassuming as Michael Dennis  (for one, nearly all his poems eschew caps, a mark, among many others, of textual humility), is something of a weird treat and one only likely to have been brought out by someone as kin as his editor and long term friend, Stuart Ross. In a brief, intimate Introduction, Ross describes Dennis’s appeal as residing in his “conviction, his directness”;  he is a “populist poet” who delivers “poetry without artifice.” Well, for the most part. If there is actually any such thing as poetry without artifice. Surely there is play with form (even free) going on here, along with metaphor, and with voice. It just doesn’t yawp its techniques from the rooftops or aim, ever, for obfuscation or cleverness. I truly started to click with Dennis’s poems in Bad Engine while reading “Meeting the Duke,” a quirky approchement between man and dragonfly through the aegis of a joint in which Dennis eventually muses: “I doubt we were looking/for the same things/but you never know.” Dennis’s aesthetic may stem from the plain-spoken era of Purdy, Trower, Nowlan, but his sense of humour remains a regular thread and there’s more often the shadow of a wink in things, though startling pieces like “in laughter and again in fear” in which the young speaker has his uncle’s friends “cocks” forced on him, as well as being hung “from [his] ankles/ over the edge of a cliff” is so telling-it-like-it-is as to be a necessary textual rupture, casually sandwiched between poems on trained ducks and Wayne Gretzky’s prowess. Both light perceptions and dark realities are carried with equivalent potency in Bad Engine.

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There are also poems that pronounce on poetry itself in a matter of fact yet somehow problematizing way, as with a piece about men who beat up women during which the narrator states balefully, that in this context, “poetry certainly doesn’t matter” (snakes with shoes). Or when he notes that although he has “never enjoyed/delicate musings on the beauty of nature” (of all the poems I never planned to write) a butterfly has nonetheless compelled him to do so. Although the loose forms and Dennis’s tendency to begin too many pieces in the second person imperative (“you are on a train”…”you are in a small plane”) become a bit wearisome, there is frequently something, content-wise, that continues to draw the reader, whether it’s the “white painted stencil/of a little dog shitting…beside the sewer grates” in Brussels (puppies and the pissing boy) or the young boy’s confused perceptions of his redneck fatehr baling with “large hands like a winnowing fan” (the winnowing fan) and his detestations of his grandmother’s margarine – “the white lard/with the blueish-purple dot” (gloria in excelsis deo).

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Aural pleasures aren’t overwhelming but remain evident in the taut ping of line breaks and the occasional assonantal gem such as “the ghastly sleep/of the beast” (you are driving.) A poem that begins “let’s say you’re a deer” (this day full of promise), one that chronicles the banality of the everyday where the speaker reluctantly “did what [he] was told” and another harshly punctuated piece about how abuse becomes wrapped up in the quotidian so that even the relaxation of watching a hockey game can rapidly be punctured by memories of his “uncle….ripping at [his] anus” (where memories are made), are especially striking in the later array of poems. Dennis is refreshingly unafraid of being blunt in matters of sex (the “cock/cunt stuff”). Or death. Ala Bukowski perhaps who wrote, as Dennis recalls: “in beer and blood.” And if your “poem ends when they both come” well what more can you ask for.

 

Also, thanks to Michael for his blog: Today’s Book of Poetry. The more passionate reviewers of poems the better!

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Two Poetic Debuts from Anvil Press: Creary & Gudgeon

There seems to be a whole slew of poets out there these days with debut collections that sound, at least in part, as if they could be the products of Stuart Ross’s poetry bootcamp exercises. Books stuffed with poems heftily dosed with the surreal then sprinkled with a strangely world-weary herb and a dash of romantic spice. In John Creary’s first offering, events unfurl as if lived : ” he cooked Mediterranean sausage/at around six in the morning./I was wearing my White Parquet Courts T-shirt…” (“Druggy Pizza”) but the quotidian is rabbit-holed with the addition of such disorienting weirdnesses as “the fringes of my face” and unlikely-to-be-true details like two men drinking “50 tall beers” (or later other types of trippy statements as “my girlfriend was a bomb shelter” or the speaker’s claim that he saw a man’s face “chipped off by a lawnmower.”) Does this repetitive and arms-length yoking of the typical and odd work? At times yes. But more often than not, I felt like a college teacher shrugging her shoulders over some proffered thesis statement and declaiming, “Yeah sure, but so what?” I mean the anaphora of “The Regulars” is pleasant (“some men” this, “some men” that) but the form devolves into an excursion of pointlessness. And the same with “17 girls.” Not that there aren’t compelling forays here. “Shudder Island” has satisfyingly apropos swerving couplets mimicking a vessel’s motion across turbulent waters (though why “more pale”/”more clear” instead of paler/clearer?); “Short Story” is rich with internal rhymes and resonances (“unravelling/staggering,” “grass/masked/kiss”) and “Somethings, Revealed: Degenerating” is a believably gory portrait of an unraveling, yet resonant, psyche: “Letterman on acid…my dick like a wand in the window.” Also, the prose poem, “The Boy and the Bottomless Lake” is an instantly vivid portrait of childhood loneliness where the sun slices “the day in half” and the moon litters applause (the aural leaps in “Zombie National Park” between humeri, garish, fishing and hummus are, also, delicious).

But truly, what does a line like “Bald juries sing the rust and ache of tin” mean? (and I’m an Ashbery fan so no stranger to the flippant elusive – and yes, there is way too much of this in the master’s last two volumes). At least a somewhat comparable mystery like Rexroth’s “lilies locking and singing in the bone” is more readily visualizable and sonorous. In totum, alas, Escape from Wreck City often made me want to flee from this dribs & drabs poesis in which the lingering sensation was that I had had a bunch of so-so hookups with everyday madmen but really, in this era’s ruins, (they told me) don’t sweat it, as not much, after all, matters.

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Celebrated novelist and biographer, Chris Gudgeon’s foray into poetry is indubitably clever, but not “Canada’s answer to Billy Collins” as the backjacket blurb proclaims (O why do we continue to compare ourselves to Americans!). No, it’s deeper, quirkier and sexier. And essentially cutting to the national pantheon of dead and/or mostly unread poets like Ray Souster who is depicted hanging his wet poems to dry, preserving his literary legacy so “future generations could also not give a shit.” Gudgeon isn’t afraid (or perhaps afeard) to rhyme in his mockingly formal ditties to the crude realities of eternal love (here I’m reminded of poets from e.e. cummings to Pam Ayres): “We’ll share the same doctor, to save ourselves time,/Whatever diseases are yours will be mine; /I’ll spoon you in bed, to keep us both warm,/And I’ll fart without warning, you’ll hold your breath without scorn” (“Marriage”) or “compactly compacted, we’ll decompose, I and you/forever interred in a coffin for two” (“Make Room in Your Life for Me”). But gosh, there’s also the tenderest little slivers of erotic sweetness, unabashed as “Let’s start small, my darling…” with its “great love stands/on tiny feet” moment or the gasp of a pure epiphany in the dual simile: “flowers, like secrets,/cannot hurt/you, and like fists, only/close to protect themselves from the night” (“He loves me…). Other pieces, sadly, are banal. The jerkofferies of “Codependence”; the all-too-obvious punchline to “Magician” (“even though I can’t be trusted,/I need you to believe in me”), the flat-lined games of dullard word-play on various Canadian poets and, in general, the spackling of anarchisms that mar otherwise memorable poems like “seem’d” or “hist’ry’s/feath’ry/ivr’y” (and yes I am aware their inclusion was deliberate. yet, still, it’s overdone).

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The core poems, however, have serious cojones. “Canadian Tourister” rides its premise of cultural cliches right into the rocking barn with its lists of the typical (igloo, salmon, Indian) turned inside out until it’s a rhythmic litany of false identity, while the long harangue “The Revelations of Donald Trump” is an astonishing romp with Whitman, Ginsburg, Blake and other Virgils inside the bizarre despotisms of this “small god with big hair.” Also incredible, “Lauren Harper stung by a bee at a photo op on the roof of the Royal York Hotel, July 27, 2014,” with its fantastic fusion of bee wisdom and a mockery of politicians, as expressed jub(ee)lantly even in bee-bop – “her bee-gina all sticky with bee-jizz.” Bejeezus! And, lastly, “Come let us Bathe Milton Acorn.” O wow, what a paean to the stinky icon of liminal Canpo – a unique tribute that concludes, “Is that a poet or merely/some glorious human cigar?” Yup, Assdeep in Wonder is pretty darned wonderful.

[And, as a side note, apart from contents within, o boy is Anvil Press making some hot looking lil books these days!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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