The Montreal Review of Books Admires Leigh Kotsilidis' 'Excellent Debut Collection'
Leigh Kotsilidis arranges Hypotheticals, her excellent debut collection, in four categories: Evidence, Variables, Falsifications, and Conclusions, suggesting a scientific experiment. But by speaking of hypotheticals, instead of hypotheses, she implies that she will do more than explain the facts: she will imagine them, at least in part. Shortly after its founding, the Royal Society denounced the use of metaphor in scientific reports and called for naked language. Kotsilidis experiments with phenomena (anything from ice fishing to tennis to weather, her favourite theme) through brilliant metaphors. In 'Flukes,' she demonstrates how they can be layered, which takes us really far from naked language. The data for her work is often sourced in other poems: she’s another intertextual writer. She even uses that fluctuating authority Wikipedia. The cover of Hypotheticals bears a cut paper collage of Signal Hill in Newfoundland, where Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio message, and the poems often send ambiguous signals, metaphor being inherently ambiguous. Part of every message is noise, communication theory tells us. In two ambitious dialogue poems, 'Orphans I' and 'Orphans II,' Kotsilidis imagines Plato, Herodotus, Stephen Hawking, and Mulk Raj Anand carrying out inquiries in a spaceship. They represent philosophy, history, science, and literature. The experiment fails to establish truth: the great men squabble and their ideas cancel each other out. Although the last word of 'the second dialogue' is Plato’s ('Love'), it is followed not by a period but by a dash and a sombre stage direction: [Light fades.] Have we been illuminated? Sometimes the static is part of the signal.