Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gregory Betts, The Others Raisd in Me

1. ReadMe Doc

what powre this we

in my art.

make me sigh

swere that

grace is of things.

in my mind –

how to make and see

the others

raisd in me.

For St. Catharine’s, Ontario, poet Gregory Betts, The Others Raisd in Me, 150 Readings of Sonnet 150 (Toronto ON: Pedlar Press, 2009), comes out of his ongoing interest in “plunderverse,” writing new and original works from the texts of others, such as in his If Language (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2005). As he writes at the beginning of the collection, “All of the poems in this book were uncovered by crossing out words or letters in William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 150.

THIS BOOK, APPEARING exactly four hundred years after the publication of Shakespeare’s infamous sonnets, creatively misreads his Sonnet 150 as a prophetic program for the centuries of Western culture from his time through to our future doom. The rise of modern individualism in the sixteenth century has provoked a rush of arts, science and technology; consecutive waves of idealistic revolutions that pushed humanity beyond the limits of the body. The mechanical evolution of the human experience builds from the “I” within us to its projection and animation in cybernetic form. The Others that rise are the self and its metal shadow.

This is a project built out of excess, a project that requires excess before it can be properly realized, much like Christian Bök’s award-winning Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001). In fourteen sections, each corresponding to the original poem’s fourteen lines, one wonders, can you even see the trees for the forest? The cover image showing row upon row of managed forest, like wooden soldiers, not yet made, waiting and standing attention. As much as this is a book of poems (and even, a breakdown/book of “poem”), Betts’ work is a treatise on the project itself, using quotes to work through the argument for its own creation, working through Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, John Donne and John Milton, among others.


make me lie



becomes ill

my worst

exceeds hate

abhor abhor

my unworthiness

raise me

to be bled

How does one craft the contemporary world, or even the future, from a four-hundred-year-old verse? One can say it might be easy to write ten, even fifty poems out of such a project, but the real challenge, as Betts knows, through his arbitrary baffle of 150 original works, is to push the idea as far as it can go, and see what comes out of it. The challenge, to work the trick (so called) and produce a worthy work, which, as a unified whole, he certainly has. Again, such a project can only really succeed through such excesses, breaking a project down and rearranging its (component) parts; another in a series of “plunderverse” projects Betts has been working over the past near-decade, plundering Hamilton, Toronto and now St. Catharine’s, Ontario. As he even says himself, through his poem “83”:

if worth is raisd

more worth to love

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.