Saturday 14 June 2008

I review Houle, Porco, Scott and Vaughan in the Globe and Mail today

It's a long, four-book review. Here's just a bit of what I have to say about each book. For the whole text, check out the Globe and Mail.

By Karen Houle
Gaspereau, 112 pages, $19.95

This book demands painstaking concentration from its readers, but once given over to it, a reader will discover a book steeped in the marvels of the natural world, where human thoughts seem to emanate from organic forms, and all is rendered in a poetry of jungle-like density where the chief pleasure is the texture of the language itself.

By Allesandro Porco
ECW, 64 pages, $16.95

As though raising a defiant middle finger to his detractors, Porco now gives us his second collection, Augustine in Carthage. Don't let the high-minded title fool you; he hasn't shied away from the sin and silliness that characterized his first book. If anything, he has upped the ante, not only in gleeful vulgarity, but also in skillful versification. It is in the foggy gulch between high art and seedy subculture or preposterous kitsch where Porco, like painter John Currin and sculptor Jeff Koons, creates the aesthetic tension that drives his art.

By Jordan Scott (pictured above)
Coach House, 72 pages, $16.95

Scott's poetry, on the other hand, frequently ditches the notion of syntax altogether. Words don't need to mean anything when they can exist solely as physical matter, as literal building blocks, and for Scott, words are eminently physical, not only as ink printed on paper, but also as plosives, fricatives and taps, as a column of air shaped in his body and expelled from his mouth.... Admirably, Scott has taken his so-called impediment and from it crafted a poetry that is physically beautiful, conceptually rich, and relevant to the world outside the book that contains it.

By R. M. Vaughan
Coach House, 80 pages, $16.95

Good lord, what a gorgeous and courageous book! I scarcely know where to begin, but here are the basics: Troubled is a memoir in poems; it chronicles the disastrous sexual relationship that Vaughan had with his actual (and unnamed) psychiatrist and the emotional, legal and professional fallout that ensued.... Rhythm, metaphor, rhetoric, all the weapons in the poet's arsenal are strategically and expertly deployed here, and R. M. Vaughan, both as poet and as victim, achieves a final and decisive victory.

To see the complete text of this review, check out today's Globe and Mail, or click here.

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