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Eleven:Eleven by Liz Worth

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Eleven:Eleven by Liz Worth
published in 2008
Trainwreck Press, 8.5×5.5, 24pp, $5.00 (CAN)

Reviewed by Mark McCawley

Written during a stretch of unemployment in the spring of 2008, this micro-novel pieces together a narrative that speaks through a fragmented consciousness of abstract poetics, claustrophobic fantasies, and scraps of torrid memories salvaged from Worth’s personal journals.

The last time I encountered so successful a hybrid between autobiography, poetry, and fiction was the 1992 publication of Daniel Jones’ Obsessions: a novel in parts from Beverley Daurio’s, The Mercury Press. While Worth has yet to attain the high literary genius Jones exhibits in Obsessions – she is not without her own overflowing cup of literary talent as she pieces together a complex narrative labyrinth of female coming of age rituals, overt media images, and juxtaposed images of sexuality, identity, gender, love, and madness of an anonymous narrator.

15.

Life outside this bed is unimaginable. Grotesque. A dreaded, hunched figure you don’t want to look at.

It seems there is no way to leave. It seems you will never want to.

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First you know, and then so ordinary, by rob mclennan

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First you know, and then so ordinary, by rob mclennan
published in an edition of 200 copies, November 2010
above/ground press, 8.5×5.5 (saddle stitched), 8pp, price unknown

Reviewed by Mark McCawley

Rob Mclennan is a prolific poet, writer, editor, blogger, and publisher of the Ottawa-based micro-press, above/ground press. In his chapbook, First you know, and then so ordinary, we find a suite of six poems which perfectly illustrates the understated lyricism which weaves throughout mclennan’s poetry. The poet uses restraint like a kind of inner punctuation in his poems in combination with notions of breath and distance, as in the title poem itself:

I wanted to say: the big dumb
excuse of me,

the phone rings
all the way from lakeshore,

Toronto Island Airport

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I Have Come To Talk About Manners by Stuart Ross

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I Have Come To Talk About Manners by Stuart Ross
published in an edition of 50 copies, February 2010
Apt 9 Press, 8.5×7, 19pp, $10.00 (CAN)

Reviewed by Mark McCawley

In his first book of poems since 2008’s Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books), I Have Come To Talk About Manners collects eighteen new Stuart Ross poems in this attractive chapbook from Cameron Anstee’s Ottawa based micro press, Apt. 9 Press.

From the first instance I encountered the poetry and prose of Stuart Ross — in the Proper Tales Press titles When Electrical Sockets Walked Like Men (1981) and Father, the Cowboys Are Ready to Come Down from the Attic (1982) — it was his sardonic, yet playful use of the surreal in the face of modern culture’s hyperreality that struck me most. His use of ordinary, mundane, quotidian elements of everyday existence become extraordinary in Stuart’s deft surrealist hand.

I Have Come To Talk About Manners is no different. Ordinary, everyday elements are constantly on the verge of becoming something else as Stuart’s poems transfigure whatever hyperreality they happen to come into contact.

In “Fathers Shave”, something as ordinary and seemingly innocuous an object as a Father’s razor blade becomes a surrealist allegory for rigid codes of masculinity as viewed through the eyes of a child: “The blade rips the bristles / from his cheeks, his chin, / beneath his thunderous / nose”, “rips the carpet / and the curtains, rips / Sylvester the Cat / right off the TV screen”, “rips the welcome / mat off our porch, the / grass off our lawn” and Father’s “boss caresses / his smooth face. The clients ohh and ahh.”
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Men and the Drink by Julie McArthur

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Men and the Drink by Julie McArthur
Black Bile’s One-off Chapbook Series 3
Black Bile Press, 16pp, $5.00 (CAN)

Review by Mark McCawley

In her second published story, “Men and the Drink”, Humber School alumna Julie McArthur has written a unique story of one woman’s dealings with all the men in her life. What makes this story so unique, though, is how McArthur abandons traditional narrative to develop her protagonist — instead relying upon the relationships, themselves, with the various men in her protagonist’s life to describe her character.

Whether it’s her relationship with a distant father on a road trip, or a co-dependent relationship with her lover, or a friendship with an aging widower — who she really is changes to suit the man she happens to be with at the time. For her father, she’s constantly the little girl attempting to please. For her lover, she is the exact opposite — vixen. For the aging widower, she participates in his weekly fantasy reenactment becoming a replacement for his dead wife over lunch — seeing the meal for something more than what it actually is.
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Sensational Sherri by Nathaniel G. Moore

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Sensational Sherri by Nathaniel G. Moore
Black Bile’s One-off Chapbook Series 3
Black Bile Press, 20pp, $5.00 (CAN)

Reviewed by Mark McCawley

In “Sensational” Sherri Nathaniel G. Moore — Toronto based poet, short fiction writer, cultural activist, and editor of the online cultural magazine Critical Crushes — has written a transgressive, allegorical home-movie-like story of lust, booze, violence, nostalgia, pornography and obsession. In the story, we follow a thirtysomething Ricky Galore, a down and out ex-backyard wrestler in the throes of mediocrity on the verge of tapping out:

“When you tap out, you give up. That’s what it is called: tapping out, he’s tapping out, he just tapped out, surrendering, quitting: he had been giving up each night since the last time he saw Sherri.
Tapping out, counted out, whatever it took to go back through the little curtain backstage, feeling like a total piece of shit.”

By using the media of Wrestling as a virtual substructure for the ongoing relationship between Ricky and Sherri – beautiful, young and sought after – Moore has fashioned a Baudrillardean hyperreality whereby the real and the simulated are as interchangable as the professional wrestlers on pay per view — performances with predetermined outcomes between wrestlers with fictional personalities portrayed as real:

“Everything was fake and did fake things; small moths moved, chomped ice, hot breathing burbled nouns and the go-to: I know . . . I know! I know! trademarked after each utterance TM TM TM, and totally or tots.”

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