Books

Revolver by Kevin Connolly

Zachary Houle

With this collection, Connolly has really lost the plot. It is, alas, choc-a-bloc with "just messing around".


Revolver

Publisher: Anansi
ISBN: 9780887847950
Author: Kevin Connolly
Price: $14.95
Length: 82
Formats: Paperback
US publication date: 2008-06
Amazon

Kevin Connolly is known for being something of a pop culture poet. His earlier poems would skewer the likes of Madonna and drew praise from the likes of Silver Jews’ frontman David Berman.

The table of contents section of Connolly’s fourth and latest poetry collection, Revolver, would lead you to believe that he still has that old pop touch. The poems' tiles at least, are named more or less after popular songs, such as “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)”, “North American Scum”, “Train in Vain” and “Our Lips Are Sealed”.

Unfortunately for Connolly, that’s pretty much where the pop comparisons end in Revolver, which is a disappointing collection of 45 poems that barely scrape the highs of his earlier work, most notably Asphalt Cigar (1995). The poems' titles bear little resemblance to their content. What we get is a poet who is reaching towards his contemporaries in the CanLit poetry scene in writing poems about esoteric subject matter. Or the beauty of nature. Take the first poem in the collection, "Terre Haute", for example:

We're used to a season progressing logically,

then, heading south by car, it suddenly

makes no sense in reverse: a race from

ice to snow, gray earth and nippled trees,

pooled water and mud, then the first white blades,

seeming to expire when they're really

cutting way for flowers.

Any idea what he’s talking about? Me, neither. What’s happened to the Connolly of old? The one who wrote poetry about the Happyland fire in New York City? Connolly's past work was more interesting as it probed the dark corners of pop culture, and seemed to evoke imagry that is easily digestible. Take this poem from 1995's Asphalt Cigar (Coach House Press) called "Raw Dought (for Arthur Penn)" about Bonnie and Clyde:

Clyde used to think that if he

looked the bullets in the eye

they'd freeze somehow -- like

rodents on a wild highway --

find their own weight and tumble

to the pavement.

There are a few interesting poems in this collection, granted. “Litany” is a question and response poem about an interrogation that is both surreal and bizarre. “Antonia Is Not The Plasterer” is a lesson in deductive reasoning turned inside out. “I Really Need Ted Lilly To Throw The Hook” is a poem about baseball, a subject that the common man can really relate to.

However, Revolver is just padded with too much esoterica. This exists in the poem "Foreward" which starts off each stanza with a word that is meant to expand on what follows, but seems to just wallow in its own cleverness.

egg -- you have a beautiful skin,

it opens like a shopping mall, releases

happy bubbles or thoughtul modesties,

scouring the hills for ancient carvings

With this collection, Connolly has really lost the plot. I can’t help but wonder what happened, if the Trillium Poetry Award he won for his last collection, drift (2005), went to his head and suddenly inspired Connolly to write poems in the style of pretty much every other bigwig Canadian poet out there. That style is sort of the rob mclennan school of poetry, where style counts over substance and tips of the cap to one's peers count over original thought.

While Connelly did this earlier in his career, too, the acknowledgement section of his newest book notes a few poems that are "glosses" on Mark Twain aphorisms, cut up and rearranged -- or that the poem "Thirty-One" is a take on William Shakespeare's Sonnet 31. (mclennan once trotted out a series of poems over time at an Ottawa Literary Reading that deliberately borrowed elements from other Canadian writers.) Here's "Thirty-One"'s opening lines:

Your skin is pierced with hunted hearts

I trifled with and left for lost,

Their full wings, airy arts?

Frail instruments I took for ghosts.

I happened to meet Connolly once at a writer’s festival in Ottawa, and while he was a personable figure in the flesh, he did flip through a copy of one of his earlier works in my presence and gave the following self-critique, roughly paraphrased: “There’s some interesting stuff in here, but a lot of these poems were just me messing around.” Revolver, alas, is choc-a-bloc with "just messing around".

4
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.

Books

Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.

Music

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.

Film

"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

Music

Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.

Music

'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.

Music

Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.

Music

VickiKristinaBarcelona Celebrate Tom Waits on "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (premiere)

VickiKristinaBarcelona celebrate the singular world of Tom Waits their upcoming debut, Pawn Shop Radio. Hear "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" ahead of tomorrow's single release.

Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.