Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/7/2017 (948 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Darryl Whetter’s Search Box Bed (Palimpsest, 72 pages, $19) takes a time-worn poetic subject, capital-L love, and meditates on its modern, digital form (and forum): the online realm of pornographic media.
Whetter’s titles give you a glimpse of his subjects and approach: Nipple Clips on Amazon, Cam Girl Signs Off, The Sex Ed We’ll Never Offer and Monogamist provide a cross-section of Whetter’s miscellaneous muses. While "we await drone delivery / of our non-drone desires," Whetter mulls the question as to whether or not our sexual desires are met or maybe created by the products we’ve been told we desire, and to what degree the difference makes any difference.
There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments (or LOLs, as the kids say): "anti-vaxxers may not know much / about science, but they sure / know what they like."
Whatever turns you on, it’s probably poeticized somewhere in Search Box Bed.
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Lorna Crozier’s What the Soul Doesn’t Want (Freehand, 64 pages, $17) is one of her best collections in recent years: a slim, stark volume of strong poems that are best when offering dense but vivid natural images.
"Outside snow falls / so slowly the trees have to pull it to the ground," ends one poem, while another begins, "The watches in the Goodwill store are the watches / of the dead. If you put one to your ear / you’ll hear the sound of snow falling."
Elsewhere, Crozier writes, "I teach mathematics / at the school of the dying. / There are only so many numbers we need."
These three quotes, with their recurring elements, give a nice sense of the book as a whole, and the eerie, near-mystical tone Crozier is able to summon at will.
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Marcus McCann’s Shut Up Slow Down Let Go Breathe (Invisible, 80 pages, $17) offers wry commentary on the modern world’s miniature nightmares, from writing a cover letter to sharing a basement laundry room.
"Sincerely, you write, sincerely. Sincerely…" in your cover letter filled with insincere lies. In the laundry room, things are no better. The warnings on the wall operate as warnings for life in general: "no one is responsible" and things are going to be ruined.
McCann’s poems wrap wisdom in bacon: if you like life, you’ll like them.
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Derek Beaulieu’s The Unbearable Contact with Poets (If P Then Q, 126 pages, $10) collects a selection of Beaulieu’s essays, reviews, and interviews on poets and poetry, focusing on experimental works and authors. Beaulieu focuses on conceptual and concrete poetry, both of which (in a broad sense) lack non-specialist reviewers.
One of the most enjoyable and also enlightening pieces is a short statement about Beaulieu’s participation in a U.K. gallery exhibition. Beaulieu attempted to ship an empty box to the gallery, the entire box with the shipping materials (barcodes, etc.) intended as his conceptual artwork. UPS refused to ship an empty box, since its contents did not fall under its pre-existing categories of what you can ship, and Beaulieu was forced to include a blank piece of paper.
Beaulieu then attempted to insure the box (since it was, technically, an irreplaceable artwork) for $52,000, but was denied.
Beaulieu’s own artistic practice, and his writing on the practices of others, often contains this odd combination of straightforward earnestness and grinning with tongue in cheek, and offers a good entrance point for a reader intimidated by experimental work but interested in it nevertheless.
Winnipeg English professor Jonathan Ball (@jonathanballcom) lives online at JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.