was the featured reader at the Dusty Owl yesterday. after reading a few poems from his Blackberry, which was very fitting since some of his poems in his latest poetry collection were created thru automatic handwriting recognition, he read from said collection “The Real Made Up” (ECW Press, 2007).
what i enjoy about this book is its versatility, the fact that it can’t be pigeon-holed into one type of poetry. there are short witty and imagistic poems, there are poems written in the personae of invented characters, there are poems of constraint, but most of all there is play and risk. the whole collection is informed by the quote at the beginning: “Mimesis sutures the real to the really made up—an no society exists otherwise.”—Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Reality.
some of the poems that particularly stood out for me upon hearing Stephen read were
Scarecrow-i loved the vivid personification of the residential neighbourhood and its association with aging: “but in this neighbourhood the arteries/clog with identical mansard-roofed red brick houses”
Bill McGillvray’s Cap, Joanne’s Medium Format Camera-these poems demonstrate Stephen’s ability for compassion, for empathy.
the Karikura poems, such as Karikura Gives Advice. Karikura is my favourite of all the characters in this book, he states the obvious in a matter-of-fact way, gently chiding us for our silly questions, yet there is kindness there and a poetic sense of beauty and once again compassion.
Four Electronic Handwriting Recognitions are fun examples of what serendipitous connections can be made to generate a poem. this is something that writers have been experimenting with since at least as early as the Cut and Paste experiments of the Dadaists, perhaps even earlier. i think the idea of combining the random play of experimentalism with contemporary technology is ingenious and it’s a creative way to illustrate mimesis. good to see a Canadian and particularly a local poet playing with text in this way.
Stephen didn't read the Randomized Oxford Exploration poems, short poems that I would love to know more about. I wonder how they were put together. They seem epigram-like and full of fun vocabulary and wit.
we need more play in poetry. we need more writers willing to take risks and experiment. artistic innovation leads to progress. and particularly with "The Real Made Up" Stephen Brockwell has become one of Ottawa’s literary innovators, along with Max Middle, John Lavery, jwcurry, and up-and-comers like Nicholas Lea and Marcus McCann, to name only a few. who’s next?
one short aside-i’ve been very disappointed with the reviews i've seen of “The Real Made Up” which ignore or dismiss the experimentalism throughout this book. such reviews do nothing to encourage a writer’s attempts to play and to experiment, the reviewers preferring always the old familiar (of late) Governor General pablum poetry and bemoaning anything that innovates. where are the Jon Paul Fiorentinos on the GG list or a. rawlings? it’s been 20 years since Erin Moure won the GGs, for heaven’s sake.
for an interesting interview of Stephen by rob mclennan, go here and for another more in-depth interview, go to Ottawater.com 3.0