Hour loves a good Sitcom

By Melora Koepke
Hour
December 6, 2007

TV poetry

Melora Koepke

David McGimpsey constructs intelligent stanzas out of the idiot box

What is poetry, really, but situational (tragi)comedy? T.S. Eliot knew it - his Prufrock did not dare to eat a peach. Unsurprisingly, Montreal-based writer, professor, musician, stand-up comedian and travel columnist David McGimpsey knows it as well. His fourth book of poetry, Sitcom, is the sad, beautiful music of popular culture and related topics, including our own mortality and essential aloneness in the world.

I've recently read other works by McGimpsey, including his nonfiction book Imagining Baseball: America's Pastime and Popular Culture (2000) and an epic exploration of junk food indigenous to Los Angeles in this month's enRoute magazine, for which he also writes a monthly column about sandwiches. But McGimpsey's diversified interests only signal the seriousness of his poetic work; the author himself does not entreat us to steep in the mix of his literary allusions. He's not slumming. While other, more minor poets might compose pentameters about episodes of Friends for their friends to chuckle at, McGimpsey's sonnet-like '14 Episodes' is about Joey, Matt LeBlanc's after-the-fact Friends spinoff. That's how you know he's the real deal (McGimpsey, not LeBlanc).

In Sitcom, McGimpsey picks up on the collective subconscious in which Hawaii Five-O, Mr. Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Facts of Life punctuate and subjugate our awareness of the infinite. And McGimpsey's territory isn't just TVtropolis, but other landscapes as well - New Country, televised sports, academia. As he tells us in his introduction to Sitcom, "Reba only slightly depresses me/ Steve Urkel has seen me well past blue." And McGimpsey sees farther than most of us.

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