Prairie Fire calls Joy Is So Exhausting 'a cornucopia of poetic delight'

By John Herbert Cunningham
Prairie Fire
April 16 2010

'This collection is a cornucopia of poetic delight. Holbrook comes at you from all directions, assaulting you with the slam-bam of lyric, prose, and a well-honed sense of humour. Take the poem "Editing the Erotica Issue," which begins:

'Crocuses glistened. Sparrows throbbed.
Would he approve
Of her nipples of mauve?
And that was what had first attracted him, her canvas flaps.
A father of four, he is nevertheless kittenish.
Her skirt had a stuffed look, which could only mean she was wearing ruffled panties.
Oh, nutritious mound of sprouts.' (10)

The unusual juxtaposition of words--sparrow/throbbed, nipples/mauve, ruffled panties/nutritious mound of sprouts-- creates an excitation of the senses. Metaphors here are fresh, new. The "nutritious mound of sprouts" at first blush appears to be a strange concatenation of words. But then it dawns on us with the force of a sledgehammer that "nutritious" has something to do with eating and orality and that "sprouts" can refer to things sprouting. Furthermore, we discover the pleasure of the near rhyme "approve / mauve" while fantasising on purplish pink nipples...

Holbrook takes us to the prison of language where words are constrained through various devices. Amazingly, they still know how to sing, which is a testimony to Holbrook's talent.'

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