Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Canada Post, Jason Christie

Jason Christie's debut collection Canada Post, is a lot of fun. This is apparent in the whimsical cover: an Etch A Sketch floating in white space. There are poems in here, like "Swerve (Steeper Grade)," that excite me:
Rough music motivates our gentle recapitulated social need for norms and critics like Ebert and Roeper at the movies or Tucker Carlson. Who remembers Tucker Carlson? Won't someone please remember Tucker Carlson?
Why? Well, the energy for one, and the pace, and the direct address, and the reference to conservative pundit Carlson.... Other prose poems have a lyricism to them. A lyricism coupled with surprising images, as we see in "Language as a Multiple Gesture Defence":
If by a lake, then your body becomes a bouyant container for words, floats through paragraphs, past sentences; my geographic insistence maps..."
That first bit, is lovely, and offers a hint of the depth that this poet can achieve. Or, in "Lurk (Poem for [mailsnail])," the blend of high and low mixed with wordplay:
Yellow leaves and enters autumn, that hesitant Georgian architecture forms a venerated space from words: A wet season we weather...
The leaves/autumn I have heard before, but here is a slightly different echo, particularly followed by the reference to the Georgian. Still, Christie skirts a line here, that line of contrived simplicity. Some poems seem to have achieved that 20-something bed-head feel: you know, the irristable look of a thing that has such sublime bone structure and shape no matter what it's wearing there is a spine of pleasure. Others however, fall flat. The off-hand, and slight-of-mind, the pun that is not quite pun enough. Poems such as the one titled "Gallop Poll," that consists of the single line: Fuck off! or "Game vs. Real":
There are typos
all over the word.
There are just a few too many like this. And this play doesn't seem poem enough--not for this reader in any case. At least not yet. Which makes me consider what one should expect from a first book, or indeed any book. One thing I'm becoming more aware of is my own desire for a book with a sense of "whole", a whole project, or as I said in the barwin beaulieu piece, a thing thoroughly chewed through...an idea torn asunder to a kind of, at least momentary completeness. It may be quivering, and without a thick skin, it may be frayed, fragmented, hopefully a tad fraught, but there must be a sense of whole; there must be a sense of a thing undertaken...Not only that of course, but the energy of the line, the attention to the poetic undertaking: compression, inter-text, everyday event, physical body, as laid out by Moure in Furious, or, Dionne Brand's will-to-hum, the political as/in cityscape, or the interrogations of Brossard, or the seeing of McKay/Lilburn...it isn't a matter of what the vision/undertaking is, it's a matter of sensing it there in the skin of the book.

So, while I'm excited about Christie as a poet, and Snare as a rangey new publisher on the block, and while this book is certainly one of the more personable reads I've had in a while, I look at the Christie poems included in Shift & Switch and I think, well, there is a larger project that I would like to see as a book. On the other hand, there is a poet in Canada Post, out on a limb a bit, with a fresh perspective and great energy. Is that enough? Perhaps it is, and what I'm noting here is merely a matter of sensibility. Either way, as I said with Truscott, this is a poet I want to see more from.

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