Alberta Views finds blert a 'fascinating linguistic foray'

blert by Jordan Scott
By Jay Smith
Alberta Views
August 24 2016

Try saying this 'lip off' three times fast: 'fresh nugs / mouse milking / NASCAR // wrist flex / snorkel mosh / dental furrow / ease Pantene.' These are lines taken from blert, Jordan Scott's first book of poetry. Scott, a Calgarian and lifelong stutterer, wrote the book as a 'spelunk into the mouth of a stutterer.' It is a text designed to be a stutterer's nightmare verse. But blert is also a delightful object of poetry, revealing the complexity of language’s corporeal production from a point of view that most of us have never before encountered.

Take the poem 'Two Cheesburgers, French Fries, and a Coke,' which reveals the eponymous phrase in the mouth of the stutterer. Those eight seemingly simple words transform into a page-long mangling of language. The poem evokes a bustling fast-food restaurant, where the easy food orders flow effortlessly from others’ mouths. Complicit with linguistic deviance is a betrayal of social propriety. Consider this order in comparison: 'Twa, twaddle, Tweedledee, twas, twayblad, Tweddlededum, twat, tweezers, twinkled-toed, twig, twelve gauge, twin-engined, Twix, twizzle… zizz, zag, Zohar, Zola, zoo, zonked, zoot suit, two.'

On one hand, it's painful for the non-stuttering reader to imagine being, as Scott says in the author’s note, so afraid of spoken language. But on the other, it's a fascinating linguistic foray. Sometimes, as in this poem, stuttering seems to be avenue into the unconsciousness. In one long series of seeming Freudian slips, Scott surveys popular culture, incorporating a surprising number of registered trademarks into his babbling. In the phrase, ‘Fri, friendly fire, Freedom Fires, fries' — again from the 'Two Cheeseburgers' poem — is expressed a succinct, very funny anti-war argument.

Throughout blert, Scott maintains this tone — humorous but serious, incisive but lucid, personally reflective but socially relevant. It makes for the finest of poetry. And unlike poets who do wonderful intellectual work but at a register so complicated that their audience is effectively only other devoted and educated readers of poetry, Scott offers many insights into language to the lay reader.

Moreover, the disorientation, the complicatedness and nonsense of Scott's work is exactly the point: for the stutterer, language is not straightforward communication. Once one embraces the linguistic deviations that Scott illustrates in his poetry, it’s a different sort of communication: in through the lips, onto the tongue, down into the throat of the stutterer’s experience of language. Not to mention it’s great art.

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