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All about poetry: Poetic licence

Poetic licence

The Jill Kelly Poems, by Alessandro Porco (ECW Press)

A no-holds-barred ode to that rare breed of notebook scribbler

Prepare for a night of poetic shenanigans at Pharmacie Esperanza when Coach House poets Sherwin Tjia, Stephen Cain and Shannon Bramer launch their books on May 19.

Sherwin Tjia is a Montreal poet and painter whose book of verse, The World Is a Heartbreaker, features hundreds of three-liners: "i have an end/so pure it justifies/any means." A master of the pseudohaiku, Tjia’s non-linear narrative is reminiscent of Song Dynasty poet Li Houzhu… only a much younger, much hornier and much more vulgar version.

Shannon Bramer is a wonderful wordsmith. Her book titled The Refrigerator Memory contains a ditty called Urbain Restaurant -a beautiful poem in a beautiful book that conjures up images of Ezra Pound, Chinese ideograms and a snake who takes care of the mice while sunning himself on the patio stairs. And much like the new saucier she’s in love with, who speaks six languages and leaves no fingerprints on the plates, Bramer’s poems are pristine, immaculate and roll deliciously off the tongue.

Stephen Cain’s American Standard/Canada Dry surveys nation and identity on both sides of the border. Many of his poems are startling, with elegant twists of violence. One of my favourites is King of Birds: "After strange pedagogues/ Like nothing else in tenacity/ Bakhtin’s beachball/ elevated the crowd// In those days we/ Looked on these works/ Stood on those shoulders/ Kicked them in the head."

Special guests include Corey Frost and musician Amber Goodwyn. The evening kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

Other poetic souls

Alessandro Porco’s The Jill Kelly Poems (ECW Press) is a tribute to the porn star muse who inspired these XXX efforts. Charged with absurd eroticism, some of the verse is downright funny. While poems such as Ménage à Bush Twins would make the hair on George W.’s back stand on end, Porco’s lewdness is balanced with a style that leaves the reader yearning for more. My favourite poem is titled Jill Kelly’s The Girl Next Door: "The girl next door’s a porn-star,/ Her picket-fence as white as a facial./ I spend weekends washing my car/ Because the girl next door’s a porn-star,/ And a good neighbour knows water/ And soap mix a make-shift lube for anal;/ And though by no means a porn-star,/ I too fuck ass and give facials."

Consistently innovative, radically imaginative poet Erin Moure’s latest effort, Little Theatres (Anansi Press), explores the quizzical territory of water and language. A book of verse where Galician and English intermingle in a swirl of river currents, Little Theatres shows Moure once again asserting herself as one of the dominant voices of Canadian poetry.

Playful is how I would describe Nelson Ball’s At the Edge of the Frog Pond (Mercury Press). His poetry is populated by herons, earthworms, water striders and frogs. The poem Cobwebs is both simple and light-hearted and is an excellent example of how Ball draws the reader into the fascinating world of nature that he observes: "Cobwebs/ up near the ceiling// are okay-/ you don’t walk into them-// but when they fall/ into your cup/ you know it’s time/ to clean up."

Suzanne Buffam won the 1998 CBC Literary Award for poetry, and her book Past Imperfect Poems (Anansi Press) sheds light on her extraordinary talent. Her wordplay is craft of the highest calibre. Playful and sublime, I was hypnotised by the poem Two Hands. While her one hand flashes a mirror at the sun, she writes that the other casts the shadow of a wing. At odds with each other, her one hand opens a window while the other hand lowers the lid. Each couplet more beautiful than the last. One hand tears up a note, the other tapes back the petals on a rose… One presses a small yellow bud between the chapter on love and the chapter on desire, and the other leaves the book out in the rain. Her poetry spins and twirls like a Sufi mystic.

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  5 comments

  • by Heath Abram - May 19, 2005, 3:53 pm

    I have a whole collection of poetry books and I will definitely add some of these suggestions to my growing set. They are also great to give as gifts. I keep a stack on my coffee table and whenever guests are over they love to thumb through them. Inevitably, someone always starts to read one aloud and then we end up having a lively conversation about its contents. If this is not a genre of literature that you are familiar with, I strongly suggest you expand your repertoire and read some poetry.

  • by Maggie Panko - May 21, 2005, 10:01 am

    Summer’s freedom is the perfect time to ditch preconceptions about poetry. In case you’re wondering if you’re fit to read poems, here’s a fix-it kit.
    EMERGENCY:
    I’m not educated enough.
    FIRST AID:
    Anyone who says you have to be “educated,” whatever they mean, to read poetry is surfing a snob wave. As MJ Stone’s article makes clear, poetry can use words everyone knows. As Sherwin Tjias’ collection says, “The World is a Heartbreaker.” The world is for everyone. Leave the snobs to their private beach. It’s the most boring, isolated place on earth.
    EMERGENCY:
    Poetry is old. I’m young. See the difference?
    FIRST AID:
    Again, check the article! New poetry is being written all the time. Some is by young people, and being read in venues for young people. Some is by older people whose writing stretches naturally beyond their age. Young people who close their minds are no different than old people shutting that window.
    EMERGENCY:
    I tried! But I don’t understand all the words. There’s huge chunks that I’ll never get. I’m stupid!
    FIRST AID:
    This one IS a major problem. Thankfully, it can be dissolved! Anyone who recognizes that they don’t get everything IS smart, guaranteed. It’s the intelligence test that never fails. If you don’t know what’s there, you’re being honest, and you’re ready to ask the true questions that will get you there. The problem is faking it. The larger problem is believing you’re stupid. It’s the killer of curiousity and facing up to your own reasoning. Forget that idea; it’s never true. Poetry is about truth.
    EMERGENCY:
    I don’t get the same thing from the poem as other people. I’m weird.
    FIRST AID:
    The minute one meaning is “the one,” all the libraries and bookstores close. You’d just need one book; it would say everything. Everyone would read it once. Then we’d be done and know everything. Sound realistic?
    Read it, write it, talk about it. You won’t regret it.

  • by Sabina Gergel - May 29, 2005, 9:42 am

    It is good to know that there are many innovative poets who are trying to put a little extra in the old fashioned poetry (E.g.: Shakespeare). I like it when a poet expresses him/herself freely. A good poet usually knows how to describe the real world as if it was an imaginary one.
    Poetry is truly a mean of inspiration.

  • by Eric Wilson - June 8, 2005, 10:28 am

    I like poetry, but I don’t have a “passion” for it. And I think in order to truly enjoy it, you have to have that “passion”.
    That being said, I still enjoyed what I read from this collection! It wasn’t hard to understand, and it was at times very funny. People are afraid of poetry, because they think they won’t “get it”. In reality, most poetry isn’t like that. It Most poetry is very simple. Some of it is too simple!
    So, if you’ve been wanting to get into poetry, but were afraid, then read this!

  • by Tave Cole - June 17, 2005, 2:42 pm

    i love poems. heres one….
    i like the ones with the sharp tongues
    i want words to cut the air with precision, without practice
    embodying the awkward grace that is only audible in the most honest accounts of what is.
    i get off on the brutality of the truth spoken by this youth
    its ok if it hurts me. like the shrill sounds of FM radio in the AM
    a wakeup intending to lead me towards a more sober state
    the causes of my most prophetic and enduring pains
    are but sounds surfing waves
    i can’t even comprehend.

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