Saturday, June 01, 2024

Simina Banu, I Will Get Up Off Of


this monobloc but I fear I am becoming experimental with my attempts. Last night I tried to hoist myself up by gripping onto bananas taped all over the walls. They couldn’t bear the weight of something: me? Sometimes the tape would peel the paint right off the wall, revealing a horrifying yellow undercoat, and aother times the banana would just split, leaving me banana-handed but utterly seated.

The second full-length collection by Montreal poet Simina Banu, following POP (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2020) [see my review of such here], is I Will Get Up Off Of (Coach House Books, 2024), a book-length suite akin to a deck of cards, working through layers of depression, regression and response. As the back cover writes: “How does anyone leave a chair? There are so many muscles involved – so many tarot cards, coats, meds, McNuggets, and memes. In this book, poems are attempts and failures at movement as the speaker navigates her anxiety and depression in whatever way she can, looking for hope from social workers on Zoom, wellness influencers, and psychics alike. Eventually, the poems explode in frustration, splintering into various art forms as attempts at expression become more and more desperate.” From the cluster of lyric explorations of her full-length debut, Banu shifts into a structure of prose lyrics that cohere into a book-length structure, the first page of which opens with a single fragment—“I will get up off of”—before the following page furthers that thought, leaving the space where the prior page, that prior phrase, had left off:

                              this monobloc but I’ve been sentenced and now I am running through a field of memes. I tread softly, and they bite at my feet, relatably, godless. The memes are my companions, and I want to tell them how I’ve felt these days, because the memes will understand. They’ve been here too. They’ve felt like this, just like this. I know because they talk about their psychotherapists and their debts and their SSRIs and their exes and their microwaves and their possums. I trip. The memes encircle me, mouths agape like baby birds, and I feed them flesh from my eyes, and I feel loved.

Composed in a sequence of prose blocks, there is something less of the prose poem to this stretch of pieces than a poetry book’s-worth of prose extensions across the lyric sentence, each broken up into blocks, each returning to that same Groundhog Day moment. “this monobloc but Goya’s dog drowned in mud.” she writes, a few pages in. “It’s true the dog gazed upward, but she was looking at mud, and guess what, the mud wasn’t looking at her. If we want to be accurate, she was looking at oil, she was oil, and everyone was plastered. Me too, over and over and over: the oil fills my stomach, and the mud fills me.” There is something compelling in how Banu rhythmically returns each lyric opening to “this monobloc,” offering book title as the presumed opening phrase of each poem, perpetually returning to the beginning, to begin again, offering a tethered and unsettlingly stressed variation on Robert Kroetsch’s structure of composing the long poem; by continually returning to the beginning, one can keep going indefinitely, after all. And yet, Banu’s seemingly-unbreakable narrative tether is entirely the crux of the problem her narrator wishes to address, reducing the complexities of depression and anxiety down to the simplest, and deceptively so, of questions, asking: How does one get up from a chair?

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