cover image Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy

Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy

Paul Vermeersch. ECW, $18.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-77041-223-1

Poet, editor, and visual artist Vermeersch (The Reinvention of the Human Hand) showcases intelligence and wit in an uneven sixth collection that’s presented as “a survival guide for the Dark Age that lies ahead.” Quirky pieces in the opening section proceed in a postapocalyptic mode, imagining a world without architecture (“No longer would we distinguish/ between exist and inhabit”), agriculture, and transportation with Vermeersch concluding that “The used future will not gleam.” Indeed, the book’s first half is replete with deep thinking and reflection, revealing the poet’s wide-ranging intellect, eclectic mind, and penchant for sharp satire. Vermeersch possesses a knack for intriguing titles (“The Imaginary World is Preparing for a Revolution >”) and memorable turns of phrase (“Two hundred words for horizon comprise an anthem”). There are also a half-dozen witty and whimsical adapted clip art illustrations by the poet interspersed throughout. But as the collection progresses, too many eloquent insights remain undeveloped, resulting in poems with surface intelligence and linguistic zing but little emotional depth, tonal range, or music. A studious avoidance of vatic or sacred voice results in overreliance on irony and wit alone. All this may be in keeping with the dystopian concept, but the way Vermeersch jettisons emotional nuance for ironic one-offs may leave some readers wanting more. (Sept.)