Monday, July 11, 2011

Jake Kennedy,

today was going to be the day i finally sat down and wrote a serious and thoughtful review of Apollinaire's Speech to the War Medic. That was the plan. Except i may have misplaced your book somewhere in the piles of books and comics and thesis papers sitting around my apartment (i would post a picture, but it's too terrible).

So i'm going to be the asshole who writes about your book without it sitting in front of me.

But i read it through twice, almost, so don't worry! And when (if) i find my copy again, i can write about it again!

But Claire, why don't you just wait to write about this book so you can write a proper review? Because i am supposed to be working on my thesis.

Apollinaire's Speech is a very different book than The Lateral. i want to be careful about quantifying the difference: it has something to do with humour and sarcasm and a self-depreciating voice, and the use of the word "asshole". Apollinaire's Speech is a candle compared to The Lateral's strobe light. What a clunky metaphor! But I mean that The Lateral is an exuberant outgoing book and Apollinaire's Speech is a little bit quiet and you have to lean in to catch what it's saying, and it leaves you wondering about the probability of sleepy tigers suffering religious euphoria and is there something subtle about moose shit on icy lakes that maybe you missed and it is still okay to laugh because it's moose shit in a poem?

There is a gentle elegance to many of the poems in Apollinaire's Speech to the War Medic, especially around the subject of violence. This fractured skull is a thing of beauty. This bullet hole, this bleeding wound. But the language never becomes precious. The book doesn't get bogged down in sentiment, but flits into it and back out again, capturing the ordinary out of order and the extraordinary doing the dishes.

There's something going on with transformation, a man being a book, that i wanted to talk about, but i forget exactly what my point was. So, um, i'll just say that the book avoids falling into the trap of lycanthropic lyricism that has become so typical of contemporary Canadian poetry. (But what does that even mean? Shh, it sounds critical, right?)

I mentioned once that Erin Moure's books make me feel like i need to grow into them, that i need to rediscover them every few years as my body of knowledge and my frame of theoretical reference increases. That they become more and more productive as i become a better reader. Apollinaire's Speech makes me feel the same way. i'm not even going to make a joke about how the back cover lists everyone who ever wrote a poem, because i'm serious. This is a smart book.

And that's pretty fucking amazing, Jake Kennedy.

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