“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….
(How Poems Work, May 2005)
Hip-hop has not, as of yet, extended its influence to the ring of Canadian poetry in the same way it has, to varying degrees, fashion, cinema, and dance, all active participants in the macro social-space of youth culture. Perhaps this is because Canadian poetry–its citizenry and institutions–has consciously endeavored to position itself culturally as mature, if for no other reason than to counter Northrop Frye’s claim of ours as “a literature that has not quite done it.” The end result has been a continued passive-aggressive articulation of youth culture as anathema to the nation’s more “serious” poetic project–whatever that may be….
(How Poems Work, April 2005)
Each of David McGimpsey’s first three collections of poetry–Lardcake, dogboy, and Hamburger Valley, California–includes installments in what are commonly referred to as his “chubby sonnets.” Sixteen-lines in length; dividing equally into four four-line stanzas; picaresque in tone–the poems carefully locate and straddle pathos and bathos, sentimentality and irony. Part character, part caricature, the speaker is, to borrow from “KoKo,” “one of the great defectives,” a resident of Loserville, described by McGimpsey elsewhere as the “demented but proud and gated community / that will not let the winners in.” He is perhaps most-aptly described as a warm-hearted Travis Bickle, or, inversely, a cold-hearted Quixote….
(How Poems Work, March 2005)
Carolyn Smart’s “Frangipani” is as close to a perfect poem as I can imagine. The poem is firmly situated in the imagist tradition, yet distinguished by how it subverts such a tradition–historically, a tradition overly concerned with the beautiful–by inscribing its central image, that of the frangipani in all its various conditions, with a subtle but unsettling touch of the macabre. The macabre recalibrates notions of beauty, while also intimating an underlying humor.
The opening stanza’s function is two-fold. First, it is expository: the speaker is paying her respects at a wake. The speaker’s experience is entirely sensory, as she immediately recognizes the “odour.” Second, it establishes a governing poetic style, one in accordance with Pound’s oft-cited direct treatment of the thing. Also noteworthy in the first stanza is its detached tone, which suggests the speaker’s disassociation from a pained reality; perhaps this is a defense mechanism….