cover image The Other Poems

The Other Poems

Paul Legault. Fence (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-934200-50-6

Bizarre, comic, unsettling all the way through, this book-length sequence of a second effort from Legault (The Madeleine Poems) makes up either a set of avant-garde sonnets, or a collection of 14-line playlets, whose many terse voices or characters come straight out of the theater of the absurd. Representative lines from “Hideaway Ranch,” for example, read “THE GREEN FOOT: Let’s get going./ THE CROWN: There are no foreigners./ THE FOREIGNER: There are no foreigners that exist.” Legault mixes in meta-discourse about the nature of speakers and writings, but also delights in shock: “The Things You Find Underwater” introduces speech-tags for Jacques Cousteau, “History,” “Biology,” “Floral Print Dress,” and finally “Manatee,” who gets the last word: “An octopus’s butt is also its mouth.” Legault’s deadpan wordplay often flirts with philosophical language (“Given a condition that is assumed to be true without further evaluation,/ things stay sound”). Legault’s sequence poses a challenge to readers who expect coherence or consistency, subject, voice or setting, returning instead—in a hyperactive, comic vein—to the experiments of the most aggressive language writers during the 1980s. Delightfully strange a few at a time, these works might tire readers who try to plow straight through—though some may find just that disorientation, that insistence on oddity after oddity, a hallmark of artistic advance. (Oct.)