Saturday, October 27, 2012

8x8x7, Colin Smith

The middle-class Evangelical could not feel it wrong to make money, however little one should enjoy it when it was made; and he would spend Sunday in proclaiming the vanity of earthly riches, and weekdays in amassing as much of them as he could. Hey buddy, can you spare $20 for some therapy? Savings bonds go to heaven, but transnationals go everyone. Operation Fuck You. One world, no hope.

Underground shelters are reserved for VIPs whose actions caused the necessity to use them. No GST no MSG. SAVE A DONUT KILL A COP. Politically we don’t want our circuitry rerouted—just our buttons pushed. File Under: Recovery Cancer Family Baseball Sports Suffering.

The ceasefire isn’t. The poor always know when they’re being picked on. Volunteer opportunities for you. A welfare cut combined with a rent hike. Forced training for nonexistent jobs. (“Just”)

In preparation for his upcoming Ottawa reading, I’ve been going through Winnipeg poet Colin Smith’s second poetry trade book, 8x8x7 (San Francisco CA: Krupskaya, 2008), a follow-up to his Multiple Poses (Vancouver BC: Tsunami Editions, 1997). Constructed out of twelve poem-sections, 8x8x7 is a series of poem-collages that weave their language poetry way through social concerns. One thread of the aesthetic of Vancouver’s Kootenay School of Writing, a group Smith has been associated with since the 1980s, could be loosely described as language writing paired with social commentary, from writers such as Jeff Derksen, Peter Culley, Stephen Collis, nikki reimer, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk and Maxine Gadd, to the “Woodsquat” issue of West Coast Line edited by Aaron Vidaver. In his book-length study, The Only Poetry that Matters: Reading the Kootenay School of Writing (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011) [see my review of such here], Clint Burnham includes Smith in his chapter “Social Collage and the Four Discourses,” writing on how his “polysemy intersects with an anti-narrative stance.” (p 93). Examining Smith’s poem “Straw Man” from the anthology Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology (eds. Klobucar and Barnholden; Vancouver BC: New Star Books, 1999, Burnham writes:

Smith’s text works as a hysteric discourse: the irony disavows its very address to the master. Think, for example, of the upper half of the hysteric’s discourse ($ [tab] S) in which the barred subject ($) is the subject of lack, the speaking subject, and could also be seen as the capitalist subject or the political protestor. […] In part, what goes on in this style of writing, in this social-collage tendency of the KSW, is a disjunction both in the sentence and between sentences, and in this disjunction, we see the hysteric subject at work. The disjunction we’ve seen in Smith operates partly in terms of the line-break, but also between the three sentences that make up the verse-paragraph I’ve quoted from his “Straw Man.” The first two sentences, for example (“I am not chosen / but have applied for the job” and “I’ve always wanted to be a Government / of Canada Initiative”), have some thematic continuity: the economics of looking for work, of government spending.

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