July 22, 2019

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Typewriter poems visually stunning

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/1/2016 (1276 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Gustave Morin's Clean Sails (New Star, 164 pages, $24) sets out to "rehabilitate the typewriter poem" by presenting stunningly complex, hypnotic visual poems composed manually on modified typewriters.

The resulting volume constitutes a major entry into Canada's corpus of typewriter poetry, a strange, stunning book where every page impresses with its meticulous patterning. Morin's poetry resembles other typewriter poetry in few ways: his emphasis is on complex geometrical shapes and patterns that resemble abstract bauhaus paintings or visual illusions more than typical poems.

If you love visual poetry, Morin's book is a must -- and if you don't, it might make you.

-- -- --

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/1/2016 (1276 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Gustave Morin's Clean Sails (New Star, 164 pages, $24) sets out to "rehabilitate the typewriter poem" by presenting stunningly complex, hypnotic visual poems composed manually on modified typewriters.

The resulting volume constitutes a major entry into Canada's corpus of typewriter poetry, a strange, stunning book where every page impresses with its meticulous patterning. Morin's poetry resembles other typewriter poetry in few ways: his emphasis is on complex geometrical shapes and patterns that resemble abstract bauhaus paintings or visual illusions more than typical poems.

If you love visual poetry, Morin's book is a must — and if you don't, it might make you.

— — —

Laura Clarke's Decline of the Animal Kingdom (ECW, 88 pages, $19) fixates on animals in order to think through our relationship to the world, especially the world of work.

The poem If I Were a Killer Whale begins "When my supervisor asked me to stay 10 minutes late / to edit a press release for First Quantum Minerals, / I'd f—kin' rip his arm off while wearing a super / elegant black and white tuxedo jacket." Sounds right.

Clarke has produced a truly impressive and startling debut collection, dense and elegant, which approaches the animal kingdom in an unconventional manner. Clarke avoids romanticizing animals — these aren't Disney critters — and produces human-animal comparisons only to highlight their absurdity (since the animals seem so much more capable and complex).

"If a lion thinks you look like a hot mess, he or she will tell you as much," Clarke notes in one poem, while another offers that "the wings are my favourite / part of the bird because they taste good / and are aspirational." Clarke moves deftly between clever lines like these to denser, darker imagery that still retains its sense of cleverness and fun. "I killed my neighbour with a chainsaw in a dream. I didn't mean to. / Still, I had to gather up the body parts in my own small hands and / bury them, and that changed me, both in the dream and in real life."

— — —

Nick Thran's Mayor Snow (Nightwood, 72 pages, $19) presents one powerful, surrealistic image after another in an avalanche of memorable lines.

The title poem opens "The mayor's accountant was as humourless / as a glass of snow" — the simile gives way in the next lines, when the glass of snow detaches and builds a new image around it: "A glass of snow was on the lawn / The tongues of the deer / are the tongues of the gods / [... dipping] into the glass / while the mayor's accountant / holidayed with his shame."

Thran's poems often develop a complex series of images in strange connection like this, for striking impact even when dealing with complicated, abstract ideas.

— — —

Rachel Rose's Marry & Burn (Harbour, 96 pages, $19) often tackles difficult, uncomfortable issues surrounding sex, fidelity and modern life — as the poem Golden Age darkly notes, "Who knew that one day we would consider / ourselves lucky to have been raped / in the golden age of rape, before violation / was caught on an iPhone: posted, reposted."

Elsewhere Rose marries this darkness with a light touch: "God says sorry for casting you / from the garden. Didn't know gardening was / therapeutic." Dire but dancing, Rose's poems rattle and spark.

Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at www.JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.

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