Friday, June 18, 2010

nikki reimer, [sic]

Vancouver poet nikki reimer’s [sic] (Calgary AB: Frontenac House, 2010), published as part of ten Frontenac titles new this spring for the press’ tenth anniversary, plays a series of techniques, of narrative skirmishes. reimer, once of Calgary, now Vancouver, moving from a community of filling Station and (orange) to W, West Coast Line and the Kootenay School of Writing writes her first trade poetry collection through four sections that tell their own tales—“illness narratives” (some of which appeared recently as a chapbook through Nicole Markotić’s Wrinkle Press, out of Windsor, Ontario), “corporate whores,” “exurbia” and “gentrified.” For all the years I’ve known reimer, it’s as though she’s been quietly on the sidelines, obviously absorbing more than she has previously let on, as this small piece, the first poem of the “corporate whores” section:
for centuries, Ukrainian bards have sung of a forsaken brother who flees
barefoot across the steppes, holding thorns to his chest to prove to himself
that he is still alive

please respond to the social imperative to martyr oneself;
clutch thorns to chest and march down hastings street
work the job to job the work to job to work to
work the job to job to work to job
we all go to work in the panopticon but some of us are
frillier than others corporate whore says why can’t i wear
pink boots and fishnet stockings to work?
why can’t i flee barefoot across false creek?
trapped inside, under glass:
ignore the cushy union lunchbreak
we like to drive the sidestreets at night blue tv set glow
soothes an earnest canadian actress on a 52-inch screen
are these vitamins or medications?
do you have psychiatric problems?
to co-opt this meat and potatoes monologue, adjust
the satellite dish listen – zombie heads chatter on location

Her subversions are sometimes cutthroat precise, sometimes as subtle as a tire-slash, bloody and prehensile, tearing through to the guts and heart of what language can possibly do. In poems that rough up the past, and terrorize the present, cradling what is important in the strong arms of these lines, reimer is working from the rough edges of cities, population and language itself. Vancouver obviously has been very good to her writing (or perhaps she brought it all with her), her poetry very aware of the immediate social concerns of the city, the downtown eastside, problems with drugs, prostitution, employment, language; her poems follow hard and further works by other writers such as Stephen Collis, Maxine Gadd, Aaron Vidaver, Jeff Derksen, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk and Clint Burnham, writing out anger, politics and language, and language as politic. There are some wonderful blatant and subtle subversions, writing her “[sic]” and writing her “illness narratives,” indirectly writing out the error of her own illness, or this magnificent first part of the two-page poem “subverbia,” writing:
radios blare subverbia sleepless, architects paint-by-numbers
from initial vertigo. coral stucco compound, elements and
nitrate. which left is it? corner venison and fry them up. sizzling
streets suggest “sitcom.” this block squared. or in reverse square
block this. to shut the screen mom i hate yer guts. sliding door
gutsier suits to the bus. hand in hand a yellowjacket. WASPier
than thou. where’s the beef indeed. cornered. think pink.
driveways a crumble rooflines and architects.

1 comment:

nikki reimer said...

rob, thank you for this most generous read. I should point out, though, that the poems from the Wrinkle Press chap, fist things first, don't actually appear in [sic].