By contributor Philip Gordon

Features_Bookreview1{sequitur} Imagine the following: you’re at home, lying in your bed, propped up slightly on the pillows. You pick up a book that’s lying beside you and open it. But… what’s this? Inside the book there are… words! What’s more, as you begin to look closely, you realize the words are made of… letters? And the letters are made of… lines? And then suddenly you realize that everything in this book is an assemblage of some strange visual system of informational representation—there are things this book is trying to tell you. And so you have no choice but to read. Also, during all of this, someone throws a small Yorkshire terrier at your face. This is the experience of reading Louis Cabri’s Posh Lust, a hodgepodge of smooshy word sounds and experimental-ass poetry (or experimental ass-poetry, depending on your preference).

{non-sequitur} One time I thought someone said, “Thai-food warning,” but they definitely said, “Typhoon warning.” I think.

{sequitur} In a landscape of poetry which is becoming increasingly populated by hyperbolic, feel-good blurbs on the back cover, assuring us that each new potential volume to find a home on our shelf is “a new, breath-taking, utterly human mastery of language,” (paraphrased amalgam of pull-quotes from the ether of hypothetical publications), it can be difficult to determine what’s worth reading anymore. One good test is to pick up a likely-looking book, flip through the pages, and see what stands out. In Posh Lust, you might find

  • The phrase “the new widdle class” (possible playing with “middle”) arranged in all manners of concrete orchestration across the page, from a wiggling piece of string to a feather caught in a breeze, escaping from the confines of the print-margins.
  • A reply to an email about the mark-up of a recently transcribed interview, complete with subject line, stripped-down Courier New font, and little reply arrows before each line > > >.
  • The author of the book finding that, in the middle of writing a poem, he has accidentally put together something coherent: “Yes! All these words go together!”

And, of course, a great deal more that’s difficult to translate.

{semi-sequitur} If I had a book of poetry published, I would outlaw a large number of words and phrases to avoid what I’ve come to think of as “back-cover blurb” syndrome. Several words might include “profound,” “mix of,” and “poetry.” I might also just use quotes from Amazon reviews about products completely unrelated to my book: “It gets super hot and heats up really fast, it’s really easy to use, and it’s pink! I have nothing bad to say about this at all.” – Amazon purchaser Apryl Cote re: the Remington CI95AC/2 Tstudio Salon Collection Pearl Digital Ceramic Curling Wand, 1/2 Inch – 1 Inch – aka, my book of poetry.

{sequitur} For those readers not immediately wooed by nonsense language, textual fragments, and other colourfully confusing snippets of poetry(?), there’s a case to be made for something more coherent. A great deal of the poems in Posh Lust are completely unapologetic about their inability to be understood—I found myself wondering, as I read through the entirety of the book, if there was some key or rubric I was missing that might help me make sense of the more puzzling arrangements of text. To his credit, Cabri does provide some minor illumination in the Notes and Acknowledgements section of the book: “Source Disclosure: ‘State of the Art’ bowdlerizes a conversation president Richard Nixon recorded between himself and advisors about a pending visit to the White House by Allen Ginsberg,” is one such mystery unveiled, but it doesn’t help the reader make sense of why the poem is in the book, nor do any of the accompanying notes do something similar.

{non-sequitur} I have a personal grudge against silverfish.

{sequitur} While there is an instinct in the academically masochistic to wade through word-soup in search of a deeper meaning, we already have Finnegans Wake for that, and it’s bound to take us an entire lifetime to decipher anyway. That’s not to say there isn’t room for more noggin-scratching avant-garde shenanigans, but it can be a bit too much at times—just when you find one poem that might appear to be speaking to you in clear enough language to understand (“énvelopes envelòpes? envélopes / what // does one do with / a game when it’s put a way”—we can at least empathize with the searching for pronunciation, the resultant confusion, and the question lingering in our brains at the end), another will vomit sounds and syntax on your face with no sense of regret, all only to be thrust into another dose of the same on the very next page: “owl row / aisle row / oh wow.” Uh, what?  Wow.

{non-sequitur} Candy-apple rutabaga toboggan. So wacky!

{sequitur} So should you read this book? I’m talking to you, the reader, directly. Hi, my name is philip (no capitals, please). Do I think you should read it? Absolutely! But I think you should read a lot of things. People should read more in general. I would recommend reading this book with an open mind, a small ice-cream bar of your choice, and, if at all possible, to read as many poems as you can out loud. I’ve gotten this same recommendation for Joyce’s work, and it seems to ring true here—feel the way “JOB’S TURKEY BAFFLE BITS” rolls around in your mouth before you spit it into the air. Be unashamed of being confused. And if you get the joke? Well, that’s just the metaphorical cherry on the ontological cake.

{non-sequitur} Arf!

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