Cap­i­tal­ism the tar­get of bit­ing col­lec­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS -

LOUIS Cabri’s Posh Lust (New Star, 86 pages, $18) re­sem­bles a com­post heap of poetic lan­guage. Cabri’s pri­mary tar­get is neo-lib­eral cap­i­tal­ism, which is happy to de­stroy the world for you as long as you fill out its sat­is­fac­tion survey: “Most Sat­is­fy­ing Rub­ble: / (a) chunks (b) dust.” In re­sponse, Cabri re­fuses the tra­di­tional lyri­cal sub­ject, view­ing “I” as “a nec­es­sary fig­ment” that po­etry pro­pa­gan­dizes. Self-in­dul­gently point­ing out this self-in­dul­gence in the poetic tra­di­tion, Cabri seems skep­ti­cal of po­etry’s pos­si­bil­ity for po­lit­i­cal re­sis­tance, out­side of its abil­ity to draw at­ten­tion to our lan­guage and its pol­i­tics. The poem Huron Church Road sim­ply reads “in se­quence like that” to sug­gest a disturbing dy­namic at play in our will­ing­ness to lay a road and build a church over the bones of the Huron as long as we “re­spect” them with the proper sig­nage. At the same time, it sug­gests chrono­log­i­cal se­quence: first the Huron, then a church, now this road — noth­ing­ness and cap­i­tal­ism win. Smart, some­times silly, and al­ways bit­ing, Cabri’s po­ems are poetic prod­ucts par ex­cel­lence. Derek Beaulieu’s Kern (Les Figues, 92 pages, $17) presents a suite of visual po­ems, crafted by hand us­ing dry-trans­fer let­ter­ing, a non-com­puter process used “in graphic de­sign, tech­ni­cal draft­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing from the early 1960s to early 1990s.” The re­sult­ing visual po­ems are in­tended by Beaulieu as “lo­gos and slo­gans for... im­pos­si­ble busi­nesses,” cor­po­ra­tions that never ex­isted, ad­ver­tise­ments for in­scrutable prod­ucts. While many of the po­ems seem pre­cisely that, oth­ers sprawl like ten­ta­cled life forms — de­graded, as if by age, rather than dated, frozen in a time that never was. Still oth­ers seem like maps of alien worlds, ci­ties of lan­guage. Beaulieu has a startling tal­ent for pro­duc­ing let­ter pat­terns that seem some­how nat­u­ral fits. De­spite their stark ar­ti­fi­cial­ity, they seem some­how nat­u­ral and in­evitable. In this way, too, the po­ems op­er­ate like visual med­i­ta­tions on cor­po­rate trans­for­ma­tion of our phys­i­cal and psy­chic land­scapes. Mike Spry’s Bour­bon & Eventide (Snare/In­vis­i­ble, 60 pages, $15) presents the per­sonal mythol­ogy of a failed cou­ple in a sort of prose-poem-novel com­posed of ter­cets (three-line stan­zas). The form it­self em­pha­sizes an ad­di­tion to a cou­ple(t) — a third thing that comes of their union, of their break­ing apart, or be­tween them. Spry uses this sim­ple con­ceit to great ef­fect, of­ten turn­ing the poem in the third line to fore­shadow the re­la­tion­ship’s doom: “No mat­ter how much he drank, she didn’t show up at the bar. / He sent a drunk text to Betty, to make sure she knew he was still alive. / One to Veronica, too. Just in case.” The sub­ject mat­ter has tremen­dous risks — do we need any more po­ems about failed re­la­tion­ships? — but Spry’s for­mal ap­proach lifts him above the fray. Amanda Earl’s Kiki (Chaudiere, 100 pages, $20) pays homage to the chaos of Mont­par­nasse be­tween the world wars, and its myth­i­cal sta­tus as a sex- and drug-fu­elled artis­tic hot­bed. The book and its first long poem takes its name from Alice Ernes­tine Prin, a.k.a. Kiki, a celebrity of the pe­riod of­ten cel­e­brated as ei­ther a muse or an artist her­self. Earl of­fers a por­trait of Kiki that sug­gests her splen­dour while tak­ing a tragic tone. A trip to New York finds her “small in the new world. I am Alice again down the hole. // I shrink. I can­not eat what says eat me. I can only drink un­til I am Kiki again. Un­til I am back through the shat­tered glass.” Here, Earl al­ludes to Car­roll, while else­where ap­ing Bur­roughs. The di­ver­sity of Earl’s style el­e­vates her at­trac­tively dark im­agery, for a rich and mythic tone to match its sub­ject. Win­nipeg English pro­fes­sor Jonathan Ball

(@jonathanball­com) lives on­line at www.JonathanBall.com, where he writes

about writ­ing the wrong way.

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