How to Make an English Exam In­ter­est­ing

Litzine, Jor­dan Bo­lay, The Blasted Tree, the­blast­edtree.com, $10

Broken Pencil - - Zine Reviews -

Jor­dan Bo­lay’s de­ri­sively com­posed glance at the uni­ver­sity level English exam — in­spect­ing ev­ery­thing ex­cept the test in front of him — is a zine I didn’t re­al­ize I needed. Denying a clas­sic struc­ture that un­der­mines stu­dent in­tel­li­gence, quote iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is laid in its flow­er­less grave. Bo­lay poses an al­ter­na­tive: to write a poem us­ing sen­sory con­tent col­lected from the exam room — by hand.

The ex­er­cise of hand writ­ing 50 copies of the same chap­book in an exam book­let is a chal­leng­ing and some­what ab­surd propo­si­tion, not to men­tion the po­ten­tial for cramped knuck­les. Bo­lay (and any of his helpers) must have truly com­mit­ted not only to the task but also to the text. Hand­writ­ing the same text so many times must uniquely re­shape and reimag­ine the gylphs, syl­la­bles, and frag­ments that make up the con­tent of this chap­book.

Bo­lay scans the room for the com­i­cal meat of po­etic sup­plies: “two blue exam book­lets / to blue exam book­let: / I’m sorry this isn’t / a bet­ter poem,” re­flects the ab­sur­dity of the ex­er­cise — ho­mo­phone phrases can­not over­come the lack­lus­ter blue book. Sim­i­larly, “some War of the Roses ref­er­ence / we didn’t re-cover Shakespeare / in this class,” al­ludes to an imp­ish at­ti­tude to­ward the canon of lit­er­a­ture.

The height of Bo­lay’s work comes in his game of jump rope with Žižek, “our ob­jet pe­tit a / our caf­feine-free diet coke,” is the in­tegrity bag, a prac­tice that Google tells me the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­gary uses to tit­il­late its young.

Ev­ery­thing here is gold. I can feel Bo­lay’s far­ci­cal per­spec­tive on academia while he si­mul­ta­ne­ously works within its ridicu­lous frame­work, “a bag of hot air / … as­sur­ing ev­ery­one and no one.” (Jenna Mc­clel­land)

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