I couldn't help but notice you, your eyes smoldering as they devoured your worn copy of L'Etranger. In that moment, the only crisis I was experiencing was the existential hell of solitude. I wanted nothing more in that moment than to whisk you away, far from the crushing confines of conformity that surrounded us, literally crushing us. I hope that you reconsider Sartre's famous adage and instead realise that other people (some, anyway) are in fact paradise.
Un/Wired is the 18th book of poetry by celebrated Canadian Poet Stephen Bett, is a distinctly Vancouver,
West Coast Canadian event, a Poet’s sid criminy. He has been widely published internationally and his
personal papers are being archived at Simon Fraser University. He is a newly retired college professor
and lives in British Columbia with his wife Katie. This is the third book of poetry This Writer has
reviewed for Poet Bett, the first two being Sound Off: a book of jazz and Breathing Arizona.
This book is largely a satire on culture, a sendup of the common man, the unthinking, the state of the unconscious violence of the Western World that feeds into the monied corporate elite. As if the common man is sitting alone in the middle of a vacant lot wondering what just happenned. Un/Wired breaks new ground, trashing sacred cows with a wink and a promise.
The Poet’s roots are in the protest movement of the Hippies and the 1960’s with the Beat Poet’s coming to the fore. In the satire pieces it is as if he is wearing a mask, portraying some good ol’ boy in the shop, somewhat reminiscent of a more sophisticated Charlie Farquharson, a comedic character invented by Canadian Comedian/Writer/Actor Don Harron and portrayed on stage and in books.
“Corporate Verbs On Hold
“We are leveraging our core competencies
to meet our customers [sic] needs [sic!].
Can you ballpark that low-end little hanky-pank toy for me?
Yes, done, & I’ll stick it up yr third base.
Can you dialogue on this lefty-lucy screwed up itsy-bitsy nutball for me?
Surely can, I’ll break it down in threads & boot it over your discretely stained lover-lie logbook, little puss.
Could you dis ambiguate this foamy wet freakin’ frontal screen for me?
Yes, surely I’ll spank it right through your wide open tailgate, little beav’.
Will you facilitate this toxic little bo-jingle-jangle wrangled wrinkle for me?
Yo (& yo again) I’ll wax your face up stiff & botox your wee mouth shut.
Won’t you pul-ease ideate this knotty smokin’ cracker-jacked idee fixe for me?
No can do, I’ll just toss it in your thought-box to ripple rot, little bindipper . . . “
The Poet plays with language, sometimes inventing new words, tangles and repeats words, dangles words in escarpment, an event. Most of the poetry is short tight sentences, minimalist, turning the words in on themselves with an edge of humor, a sawed off shotgun delivery, a projection of the violent culture. A jazz beat. “a bar, a bar, a bar . . . a bar harbour”
“Brought to You By . . .
You use a product to wash out the grey
you get laid
You eat a slo-fry soul food
you get laid
You buy a so badass Euro-zone car
you get laid
Drink a snappy nafty micro brewski
you get laid
Swallow a lil’ lite blue pill
you get laid (repeatedly)
You watch co’mmercial after co’mmercial
you get laid (& laid)
The book has a fantastical blue, black and white cover with binary numbers. It is divided into 4 chapters, “Pre-Wired”, “Soft-Wired”, “Hard-Wired” and “Un-Wired”. Reading the book cover to cover, it starts slow and builds into a crescendo. Beginning with satire and then in the last chapter some love poetry that highlights the emotional violence of having had too many lovers. Themes include, his grown children, his wife, the Internet, gun violence, corporate America, jazz music, American politics and culture, world politics and more.
There are at least 3 poems that touch on gun violence in the United States, a send up of the not too smart politics/attitudes that perpetuates a war culture, “Some Forms of Insanity are Instantly Insaner than Others”, “A-muricondo.edu” and “April 12th Another Day in Cleveland”. In the United States a significant number of people are murdered by gun violence; in 2013, 33,169 died by gun violence (excluding death by legal intervention).
“Some Forms of Insanity are Instantly Insaner than Others
The NRA back in the dark
& dusky shadows again
after the latest massacre
in the U.S. of A Minus
(twenty 5 & 6 year olds):
Guns don’t kill people;
People kill people!
Here’s your upgraded semi-
automatic 100 round per
nano-second bumper sticker
for folksy woodsmen &
wigged-out 2nd Amendment
People with guns kill people,
And for all the young & wacked-out
gun totin’ American-o desperad-o
shooters out there let’s update
another lil’ “teacher certified”
Sartrified bumper sticker
for y’all . . .
Hell is – other people’s
I once had a conversation with a friends older brother when in high school that went something like this, I said, “Who needs to buy a gun, if they’re not hunters, hunting animals, who would need a gun?” He said, “People buy guns because they’re going to kill people . . come on” and he looked at me as if I was stupid. And I looked at him in my naive green teenage youth and thought he was insane and indeed if this was true the world was insane. “what did this mean?” Thirty-five years later with a better understanding of the cultural malaise and “the cult of ego”, I have a better understanding of why, but I still think the violence of the United States is insane.
A subtle, raw edge, jazz to jazz in the N.A. street. A fantastical work of post-modernist satire exposing the bones of the violent Western malaise in an exciting evolution of the Beat Poet tradition, Un/Wired by Stephen Bett.
Available @ Amazon.com.
A song of the Middle East, a song of markets in the desert, snake charmers: a cycle of twenty poems,
presents a journey, perhaps in the aftermath of a great love. Kristjana Gunnars is a Poet, Artist, Novelist,
Translator, Essayist and Educator born in Reykjavik, Iceland. Her family emigrated to the United States,
she married and they moved to British Columbia. In 1980 her marriage broke; her works are noted for themes
of dislocation, exile, loss, desire and longing. She is a retired professor of English from the University
of Alberta. (emeritus)
This fantastical poetry in New Age Renaissance, has Imagist influences, yet rolls through landscape in full, rich cycles. The image cycles are descriptive based in nature and travel in long, slow motions. It is a story of Casablanca or indeed Andalusia, desert places haunted by rosemary, saffron, lavendar, orchids, jasmine, fig trees, the river and more, and perhaps memories of love. The romance of earth beauty, in revolving images is presented as if she is walking through a Middle Eastern Market, or traveling in a car, watching. As if she is somehow disembodied, an observer, in the aftermath, creating poetry through her observations and a deep Zen, of wisdom, the sorrow of a sage. The creation of art in the long silence, perhaps in her wandering she is lost in the crucible of time. In a certain cast of sunlight, perhaps she is walking in the post apocalypse village, that longed for place of peace.
"the brilliance of the flower
“something that goes beyond advice, but does not reach the point of
being law . . . .”
- Candido Mazon
“while I was gone the Saharan light changed,
everything darkened, the sunrays fall
slant onto the mud brick walls and scalloped ceilings,
the whole sky is still, as if arrested
without movement, without clouds, hardly
even sky at all, and the crowned ochre dome,
the star in its eight directions, and its tears,
a quiet pool to mirror the honeycomb ceiling,
the plane trees, the seasons, still overlap,
still point into the air, but from further
away, and the acacia trees have grown
taller, they straddle the walls like fugitives.
while I was gone, and I have been gone from you
a long time, long enough for silence -
for silence to extend its tenacles into emptiness,
where life is an art, life itself is the art:
seven days, seven planets, seven petals -
stars inside stars inside stars -”
Poet Gunnars speaks five languages, on coming to America at 16 years she also learned English. Learning a new language is difficult, a test of memory and new semiotics of understanding. The quest into silence is full, filled with longing, perhaps the unsettling feeling of estranger, poetry, a celebration of new lands, the character of “outsider” with new eyes, the exile from home.
The Poet’s aloneness is juxtaposed with images of great beauty, as if in forgiveness, the world, although a foreign country, turns into an arrival, the poetry a place of healing in the Spirit.
“those who live
“The exposition of the ‘perfect life’”
- Jean Cassien
bird cages without a single bird
palm trees in white pots, multi-
patterned rugs and white blanched rocks
rocks of chalk, and suspended toy airplanes
poised for descent at all times
all things slanted, bent, crooked
on the way over, down, to the side
the perfect life cannot be had
the perfect life is not in your hands
the perfect life is in the thought you think
the sundance yellow clay under your feet
the bleach-white sky above your head
the long, long march from door to door
the carpet is long because the hallway is long
the doors are tall because the ceiling is high
I will go through the small door inside the big door
I will light my home with the open airplane
I will cook my rice under a stone arch
there is a price on all things beautiful
there is a cumbersome price on all things perfect
Great wisdom weaves in and out of sunlight, a beautiful, imagist, holistic women’s lament in the vein of W.B. Yeat’s Sailing to Byzantium. A story of a long journey in celebration, a brilliant offering of the New Age Renaissance, snake charmers: a cycle of twenty poems by Kristjana Gunnars.
Available @ above/ground press.
An exciting New Age Renaissance Chapbook from above/ground press. This is the third Chapbook by Sarah Mangold
published by rob mclennan, the first two being Parlour (2012) and Cupcake Royale (2012). She has published
3 books of poetry and numerous Chapbooks winning prizes, residencies and financing from the Seattle Arts
Commission. She lives in Seattle.
A Copyist, an Astronomer, and a Calendar Expert, “the language in these poems is extensively borrowed, erased and glossed from A Theory of Cloud: Toward a History of Painting by Hubert Damisch, and Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson” states the liner notes at the end of the Chapbook. Reminds This Writer of the theme of the novel To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, in the background is the main female character outside painting a landscape. However, in this long poem as she stands before her easel, thoughts tumble in truncated freefall. The language is stilted, discombobulated and it is as if the Poet is talking in walls that manifests a violence.
“Linear perspective has a history
Every kind of feeling and affection
thunder blasts & lightening
devoted pronunciation speak
and I shall baptize you
Reveal our spatial unease
adapt common frontiers cloud
bend boughs reverse their leaves”
As if a type of DaDa, a nonsensical stringing of thought fragments, you get a glimpse of a thought that is dashed into the next non-linear thought, with the surreal nature and religious images it is as if she is speaking in tongues. It is almost child-like, a wise child painting a landscape with words, the capital letters like playing with children’s toy blocks.
“Let us dissect our feelings
Trees-How to understand them
Clouds-How they float
The Extraordinary and Bizarre
Painting from Memory”
Images buried within the freefall include the clouds, the sky, the forest, a tree, a rock, a mountain, angels, a unicorn and saints. A play on earth worship and the discovery of Holy Spirit tenets that recreate the society in the eye of the Creator, yet the mythical images woven in the violence of the offering (perhaps a reflection of the violence of the times) creates tension as if there is a colossal battle forming between the forces of good and evil. It is as if she is commenting on her “painting” including thoughts about painting, about the landscape, about the world, about society, as if she is going through what she knows and comparing it with what could be. She mentions “the system” and there is the idea of a Renaissance, a new reckoning of forces with a breath in reformation, an incredible lightness of being that imagines a dance with peace as the Spirit intended.
“Anticipate imminent revolution
our exhalation condensation stripped proof
veritable taboo fill it with gold thwart horizontal
prepositional scales like statements drown outlines”
Brushing with Apocalypse Poetry, the ethereal essence cached in violence is an expression of experiential form, celestial, sings with angels. A fantastical New Age Renaissance read, A Copyist, an Astronomer, and a Calendar Expert by Sarah Mangold from above/ground press.
Available @ above/ground press.