Andy Weaver. This. (Chaudiere Books 2015).
In many ways This is a book of many various & entertaining challenges, & some of that entertainment, designed specifically for the pun-oriented reader, can be seen in the opening of this first sentence. A seemingly chaotic collage of many different modes or forms, This is always both inviting & demanding a special kind of attention for which it offers special rewards. Andy Weaver has been reading widely, studying all kinds of history, & taking voluminous notes it would seem, in order to bring so many rhetorics to bear in This capacious collection of language hard at work.
This clearly recognizes that all writing, wittingly or un-, is a kind of quotation, & so he begins This with a slew of them. As This is, among other things, a series of riffs on late Capitalism (with all the weight of earlier ones assumed), the various kinds of writing keep angling back to how even poetry is complicit in the economy that may be destroying us: ‘There’s a reason / why it’s not called flow-down economics. / I know you love me, Capitalism, but can’t we / stay just friends?’ This from one of a series titled ‘Politics.’
There’s another series of capitalized (yes, really) prose of varying kinds, in which Weaver acts as a kind of prose-lytizing dj, mixing so many different sources to produce an illuminating analytical questioning of them all: ‘VICIOUS BY WEIGHT, THE LIGHT BULBS INTO MAGNOLIA TREES IN SPRING. THE FOUNTAIN BABBLES AT THE CARDINALS, THE WITHOUT SUFFICIENT TIME, EVEN SPRING IS LOST, SWINE GNAW AT THE PEARLS.’ These, like the ‘Politics’ poems, the little visual pun poems, & the one-word-per-line alphabetized poems full of obscure & invented terms, are mixed & matched throughout This. The latter set is full of oral/aural delights, as this one (lacking the way it’s played across the page) shows: ‘ideation / jargonizes / knowledge / langue / masks / nothingology / obtenebrating / parole / quiescently / Realpolitik / shifts / the / unspoken / vernacular / weakens / xenocracy / yawps / zombification / accomplished / bemuted / citizens / drag / employed / feet / globalizing / heedlessly.’ These pieces demonstrate a wild awareness of how words both support & betray our sense of how they (should) work. Like much else in This, they slyly mock & criticize the status quo. As does ‘this poem,’ a light dance of the always interpellated intellect: ‘this poem fears capital and for good reasons. Capital / punishment and capital gains – literal death and taxes. / Capital ideas.’
Although it’s not immediately apparent, & I at least read on just enjoying & reacting to the variety of discourses This kept throwing at me, This is, in fact, a carefully ordered poetic argument, in which the lies of lyric poetry are both unearthed &, in a way, mourned because loved. This, or its author, pays homage to a number of predecessors, like Creeley, Duncan, Olson, among others; their work too was an argument with the inescapable politics of its time. ‘Politics,’ in all its aspects, interrupts, it muffles, it wounds writing itself, yet, as, toward the end, ‘words [Politics]’ puts it, ‘i believe in / their honesty / their treacheries which / is their honesty.’ Later in another ‘Politics’ poem ‘he’ says (does the writer ever appear, & if so, how is the question these various formal ploys keep addressing): ‘I sit here writing a poem for the age / called Love in the Time of Late Capitalism,’ but it doesn’t, it can’t, work, or at least not This way. ‘I love this first person singular, so quaint. / Then it’s over – the rhyme is how we know / the play is done, and it is time to go.’ But not quite, there are a few more poems, lyric demanding its place in This book, & then This ends with a reprise of the opening quotation from Jean-François Lyotard (which I will leave to readers to discover). In This book, the political becomes the personal, & it hurts, but it also lets possibilities enter the conversation book & reader always have. This is a book to savour.