Thursday, April 14, 2016

Nicole Markotić, whelmed

to wild. wild, bodacious, bandit, and braded. a rear deposit, posited. trade for trade, and weary, and eerily, and –ily. give up colour and fluenced broadsides. this rag, this peppered snag. grasp the ladder and holes won’t stream by. bandy-on, clever a-hoy. a-cling, a-stifle, a-stash. carry on, to the final creet coda. sneeze first, ask proposals anon. (“a-”)

While I understand she’s been doing other work in the interim, I’m simply (selfishly) pleased that we don’t have to wait another series of years for a new poetry collection from Windsor, Ontario writer, editor and critic Nicole Markotić. Her fourth poetry collection, whelmed (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2016), comes fairly quickly after her prior, Bent at the Spine (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2012) [see my review of such here], especially when you consider the length of time between these and her earlier poetry collections: Connect the Dots (Toronto ON: Wolsak & Wynn, 1994) and Minotaurs & Other Alphabets (Wolsak & Wynn, 1998). The editor of By Word of Mouth: The Poetry of Dennis Cooley (Waterloo ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007) and author of two novels, Yellow Pages: a catalogue of intentions (1995) and Scrapbook of My Years as a Zealot (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008), Markotić has long explored elements of lyric prose, and for whelmed, she shifts her gaze, slightly, for the sake of the prefix, both as subject and form. As the book opens with the section “a-,” itself composed out of a dozen short poems (such as the one above), subsequent sections in the collection include “ab-,” “ad-” “auto-,” “be-,” “bi-,” “co-,” “com-,” “con-,” “de-” and “dis-,” as well as the section “ins & outs,” a short sequence that appeared last year as a chapbook through above/ground press.

to prompt the miserable wretch, hoard the past participle of praved. to be deity for saken. to bandon all former nications. to go and to originate. is that right? to accurately spurt apple pips. to bargain a dreary release that refunds that lugubrious sky hook. too triste in the east. to author the mud on the dais in the linguistic circus. to gloom. O lorne. (“for-”)

If her prior poetry collections, through the prose poem, focused more on the sentence, then the poems in whelmed focus instead on the lyric fragment, whether accumulating together in the prose poem, or utilizing a rhythmic scattering across the length and breadth of the page. There is the most luscious bouncing, nearly sing-song, quality here, one not usually featured so prominently in Markotić’s work. There’s always been an element of influence from the work of Winnipeg poet Dennis Cooley, but has Markotić’s recent work editing his critical selected prompted this shift? The poems in whelmed are incredibly playful, gymnastic in their rhythms and meant to be heard, utilizing slang, text and chat acronyms, each composed as lyric accumulations stretched across as a short study on a particular prefix and word combination. As the poem “ly” in the section “over-” reads:

joyed but also shadowed. past beyond, into super-flushed realms. a Times Roman sodoku, ordinately and orbitantly solved. stump and bozzlebam. or boozle. neither cukes nor thinly sliced zucchini. unless yellow and rectangular, less the yellow overlie. minus the revocable ‘t’

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