Monday, May 11, 2015

kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Their Biography: an organism of relationships

Although Kevin McPherson Eckhoff has been praised as “the onanism of the literary world,” there is much we are still decoding about his possible past of villainy. A man who is as complex as an algorhythm can only be understood and analyzed through close observations of semiotics (and the endeavor of shopping for attractive shirts of the spectacle variety). It would appear that his features evoke emotional, confessional lyrics that reveal the depths of a sensitive soul… or is this mere performativity?

For his fourth book, British Columbia poet kevin mcpherson eckhoff’s Their Biography: an organism of relationships (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2015) is less a composition by the author than a selection of invited submissions on and around the author by a multitude of others. Deliberately twisting ideas around “identity or relationships or language,” the collage aspect of the collection writes “about” the author as a collaborative and deliberately contradictory “memoir.” What becomes interesting through the process of going through Their Biography: an organism of relationships is just how much the structure instead opens up a different kind of portrait: one created less out of facts than through, as the title suggests, a series of relationships. This portrait portrays a writer deeply engaged with writing, his community of friends, family and contemporaries, and the notion of “serious play,” one that a number of his “authors” reflect in their individual chapters. There is such a generosity present throughout sixty-two chapters of anecdote, illustration and pure fiction. At the end of the collection, as a “Table of Contents,” he includes a full list of “chapters” and their authors, including what appears to be family members included alongside well known Canadian poets such as Gregory Betts, Eric Zboya, Vickie Routhe Ness McPherson, Al Rempel, Amanda Earl, Laurel Eckhoff McPherson, Rob Budde, Jeremy Stewart, Jonathan Ball, Claire Donato and Marlene Martins McPherson, among others. Some pieces are incredibly playful, deliberately inventing facts around the fictional character “Kevin McPherson Echoff,” while others are a bit more straightforward, suggesting the use of a more literal narrative of facts. What becomes clear, and quite compelling, is the ways in which the portrait makes itself directly impossible through the collage, and reads akin to a biography of a character that, in the end, becomes entirely separate from the British Columbia poet. This is a highly entertaining and imaginative book, and after a while, it might no longer matter if this character is real, or has anything to do with the the author himself.

When I first met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff I was in a costume and he didn’t recognize me. I met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff coming out of the grocery store and noticing that we had both shoplifted. It was then that I knew what the word hemorrhage really meant, and how to spell it. I first met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff while taking dancing lessons; he was the only one to ask if I knew how to samba. At that time I didn’t know that he would one day be a U.S. congressman, and treated him like any other samba. When I first met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff he was carried by a circus man and in turn he carried a trapeze artist, which means we must have been at a circus. It wasn’t until later that I recognized the glimmer of terrible audacity in his buckling knees, but when I did, the realization drove me to Vancouver. When I finally meet Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff after all these years he will just be getting off the plane from the Deep South and I imagine his thick accent perfuming our cab ride to the dog food plant. I met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff when I was a child and he was an elderly gentleman who taught me how to read and introduced me to the wide world of daredevil listening. It was then that I became a follower Marxism-Leninism against his wild gesticulation. The day before I met Kevin I had a dream in which two jigsaw puzzles (one alive and one dead) and two glass suitcases (one clear and one frosted) told me to make a clearing in a field in which they could birth the future. I assume these were Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff and Jake Kennedy, though I could be wrong. It wasn’t until later that I realized how literal the prophecy was. I met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff lying naked in the middle of the highway, but when I offered him a lift he spat in my eye. At the time I didn’t realize that was just his way of speaking. When I first met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff it was a cold day in the spring and a deer stood in our path, casting aspersions our way. It was then that I realized what kind of metal Kevin was made from: an aluminum alloy with 5% bronze. I met Kevin McPherson-Eckhoff while we were both in the middle of something important, but it wasn’t until later that I realized it wasn’t that important.

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