menu Arc Poetry Magazine
News

Arc Rave:
Steven Venright's Floors of Enduring Beauty

I believe in domains of exis­tence vivid and com­pelling beyond even this mirac­u­lous real­ity we call the world.” So says Steven Ven­right in his state­ment of poet­ics pub­lished in the anthol­ogy _Sur­real Estate_. It’s through language–“a shamanic gloop out of which visions emerge and new mean­ings are formed”–that Ven­right reveals, and rev­els in, the “vivid and com­pelling beyond.” “The Tur­bu­lated Cur­tain,” the open­ing poem from Venright’s lat­est book, _Floors of Endur­ing Beau­ty_, pro­vides the best gloss on Venright’s style: “A lan­guid lin­gual tor­rent com­ing out of my own head like tex­to­plasm, full of typogres and lexi­chauns.” Sur­real word­play, philo­sophic wit, and Roman­tic world-mak­ing imper­a­tives abound. Venright’s poetry is per­fectly intran­si­tive.…

by Alessan­dro Porco

an Arc Rave

Steven Ven­right. Floors of Endur­ing Beauty. Toronto:
Mans­field Press, 2007.

I believe in domains of exis­tence vivid and com­pelling beyond even this mirac­u­lous real­ity we call the world.” So says Steven Ven­right in his state­ment of poet­ics pub­lished in the anthol­ogy Sur­real Estate. It’s through language–“a shamanic gloop out of which visions emerge and new mean­ings are formed”–that Ven­right reveals, and rev­els in, the “vivid and com­pelling beyond.” “The Tur­bu­lated Cur­tain,” the open­ing poem from Venright’s lat­est book, Floors of Endur­ing Beauty, pro­vides the best gloss on Venright’s style: “A lan­guid lin­gual tor­rent com­ing out of my own head like tex­to­plasm, full of typogres and lexi­chauns.” Sur­real word­play, philo­sophic wit, and Roman­tic world-mak­ing imper­a­tives abound. Venright’s poetry is per­fectly intran­si­tive. It’s dis­tin­guished by lush gram­mat­i­cal con­structs full of strange jux­ta­po­si­tions (“In a blaze of choco­late the wood nymph hur­tles through the office tower, excit­ing ten­sions and defo­li­at­ing zeit­geists”); oneiric nar­ra­tive sce­nar­ios (“I turned around to see a mid­dle-aged man and woman, nude except for bowl­ing shoes and ver­ti­cally striped knee socks, run­ning towards me down the hall, wav­ing machetes”); and, more locally, port­man­teaus, nonce, neol­o­gisms, and spooner­isms in ser­vice of the “Con­vul­sive Beauty, Black Humor, [and] Mad Love” of archi­tex­tual “floors” above, below, and beyond that of our own often flat archi­tec­tural world. Venright’s genius (yes, genius!) is most evi­dent in three key poems. First, “Beau­ti­ful Thoughts,” which presents 24 Dhamma­pada–like eth­i­cal teach­ings that are some­times tinged with ele­giac irony: for exam­ple, “Clear / your mind // of all thoughts // except / the ones // you are cur­rently // think­ing” or “Most things // don’t hap­pen.” These thoughts achieve beauty pre­cisely because they do not extend beyond think­ing. Next, “The Tin of Fancy Excre­ments: A Jour­ney of the Self” is an apoc­a­lyp­tic quest poem that begins, omi­nously: “The grey­ness of the city, in cold steam, draws us back to its indus­trial pow­der rooms with their blue skele­tons and pneu­matic tweez­ers, their gold­mir­rored walls and coiled tubes […] The floors, still stained here and there with blood, are tiled in hyper­re­al­ist stair­case motifs–a cruel decep­tion for tor­mented souls with no path of escape.” This is Ven­right at his most pur­ga­to­r­ial and vision­ary. This world is rec­og­niz­able yet incom­pre­hen­si­ble; it’s ours–human–yet decid­edly absent of human­ity: “There are peo­ple in this town, but always in the dis­tance”. Finally, the book’s mag­is­te­r­ial work, “Manta Ray Jack and the Crew of the Spooner,” was, I con­tend, the sin­gle best poem pub­lished in Canada in 2007. It’s a bal­lad-like tale of an evening’s sat­ur­na­lian romp in a lighthouse–lots of sex, farts, and over­all scat­o­log­i­cal fun. And every sen­tence of the 21-page prose-poem includes at least one spooner­ism! For exam­ple, here, the arrival of the sailors is described: “Also vis­i­ble in the rov­ing light was a sprawl of schooner­ists whose ship, now docked, was cov­ered in the scrawl of spooner­ists” (74). Later, the Cap­tain describes how his schooner “[voy­aged] to Malaysia to enjoy some teriyaki bluefin hal­ibut in a very tacky flu-bin Bali hut noto­ri­ous for its mys­tic fil­lets and fistic melees” (76). “Manta Ray Jack” is deliri­ous fun. It excites the erotic ear. Venright’s poem is a work of total vir­tu­os­ity, a peer­less poem in Cana­dian poetry. Indeed, the same may be said for Floors of Endur­ing Beauty as a whole.
==


==

an Arc Review [read more reviews]

Pub­lished in Arc 61: Win­ter 2009

  • Share on Social Net­works