Eye Weekly praises The Certainty Dream and Joy Is So Exhausting

By Brian Joseph Davis
Eye Weekly
November 19 2009

In these last few sinking months, the National Post has played the “look what your taxes are funding” card in several opinion pieces. It’s been as desperate as it has been ineffectual. To date, no angry mob of libertarians dressed in tennis whites have marched into Type Books to confiscate and burn Lisa Moore titles for being too Canadian. Why? Because the notion that anyone measures culture using those kinds of arguments, outside a desperate editorial meeting or a glue huffing circle, is beyond stupid.

Switching its bullying to a more vulnerable population, the paper has gone from seriously suggesting Canadians really want to read sub-Grisham thrillers about Conrad Black, to suggesting that the city of Toronto should not pay $10,000-a-year towards having Dionne Brand as Poet Laureate. According to poet Adam Sol in his response to the article, that’s a mere 0.000115 per cent of Toronto’s $8.7 billion annual budget. Sol also lucidly points out, “We turn to poetry to give language to our deepest human confusion and yearning. We don’t read newspaper articles at funerals, at weddings or major public ceremonies — we read poetry.”

Neo-cons, put down your volumes of Ayn Rand. It’s time for you to read some poetry, which will be around much longer than newsprint. And stop naming your cats “Thatcher.” I can’t imagine how irredeemably creepy it is when “Thatcher” rubs its ass in your face.

At first glance a neo-con would like the cover art for Kate Hall’s The Certainty Dream. It’s helicopters, after all. But, on closer inspection, the images are just like Hall’s poetry: Rube Goldberg assemblages of everyday objects held together with the logic of stream of consciousness. These are profoundly perfect poems, especially “We Are Busy Writing Animals”: “We paraded too many living things / into that tiny vessel. Entirely new species could be made / through overcrowding.”

I hope a conservative would pick up Joy Is So Exhausting by Susan Holbrook, mistaking the title for Stephen Harper’s central philosophy. Instead, they’d encounter this line from the poem “Girl Watching”: “No way, she’s a mealy peach, a fourth-place finish, an overlong clip of Stockwell Day’s wetsuit.” Holbrook is a poet of Rabelaisian intensity who ranges from sprawling prose to word-play couplets. These litanies are political, bawdy, word-drunk, and anything but exhausting.

“Her teeth love gossip, are careless and cruel, and given to rages” is, amazingly, not about Barbara Kay. It’s a line from EYE WEEKLY contributor and former Arts editor Damian Rogers’ debut collection, Paper Radio. Rogers is a storyteller at heart, deftly jumping from socialist history both recent (John Sinclair’s Ann Arbor insurrections) to centuries old (Shakers are reoccurring ghosts in her poems). In between are testimonial fragments like: She wants to / be a haughty old / woman, a high- / boned bitch… She wants / to press / her final / breath / into the / corners / of every / room she / enters.” As the title suggests, Rogers is tuned into a sublime station, free of static.

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