Crabwise to the Hounds wows The Daily Gleaner

By Diane Reid
The Fredericton Daily Gleaner
January 31 2009

Looking for refreshing — even athletic and astonishing — use of language? If so, the poetry of Jeramy Dodds is for you.

Dodds's premier collection has much in common with his publisher's international bestseller, Christian Bök's Eunioa: sassy, triple-duty verbs; daring juxtaposition of radically different aesthetic spheres; frisky, near-virtuoso application of words that dare us to check the dictionary.

'Glenn Gould Negotiates the Danube in the Company of a Raven,' the stellar long poem that closes Crabwise, was first published in chapbook form (littlefishcartpress, 2005).

Launched at Fredericton's First Annual Poetry Weekend, it was snapped up by collectors.

Dodds won national attention with Sundress, Fortress (enRoute Magazine, May 2008), an 11-poem combination awarded first prize in the CBC Literary Awards competition.

All of those works (or edited versions of them) appear in Crabwise.

One is Dodds's take on a German shepherd, 'Second Glance at Corrag' (after Ted Hughes' 'Second Glance at a Jaguar'), which opens:

Out of the morass he looked like
a reconstructed grenade. Pelt burdened
by burrs. Corroded cloak pin of his cant-hook claws.

Hot button issues are present only in wily titles such as 'The Official Translation of Ho Chi Minh's August 18th, 1966, Telephone Call' and 'Happy Birthday, Carl Linnaeus, 300 Years Old.'

Despite confusion of syntax, Alice in Wonderland may never be the same for readers of 'Rabbit:'

. . . Near dawn he's at a cabbage grab
in your English garden. Tell him what we do
to thieves in this town: lop off that unlucky foot,
that sawdust-stuffed necromancer, perpetually on point,
teeth tocking to his jackalope cousin while wolves
tear through the kitchen, he jigs in the tall grass
when St. Jean's head is lopped into a whisker basket.

The epigram of Crabwise to the Hounds (from the work of renowned Canadian poet and culture commentator Christopher Dewdney) lends insight into the book's contents as a whole:

Give yourself up to Remote Control.
There is no choice, either you come knowing
or not knowing. You come.

Crabwise's notes and acknowledgements pages provide helpful details concerning the poet's artistic influences; moreover, they illustrate the value of community for writers and the generosity of Canada's most acclaimed.

Don McKay's deft first editor's touch is palpable in the revised line breaks of 'Crown Land' and 'Heimlich,' the smart adjectives of 'Planning Your Seascape,' and the cheeky list making of 'The Gift.'

A few pieces might have profited from cooling and further attention, but a fat Thumbs Up! overall for Fredericton's Jeramy Dodds and this extravaganza of sight, sound, touch, movement, and oh-so-uncommon scents.

Note from Coach House: Don McKay did not have a hand in the particular poems mentioned; the author would, however, like to thank Kevin Connolly for his editorial guidance on those works.

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