Friday, August 30, 2013

The Art of Plumbing - Brecken Hancock

Today's book of poetry:  The Art of Plumbing.  Brecken Hancock.  above/ground press.  Ottawa.  Ontario.  2013.

I'm remembering the great scene in the Steven Soderberg film The Limey, where an enraged Terence Stamp comes running out of a warehouse and screams into the camera "tell him I'm coming!", "tell him I'm FUCKING COMING!!".

Reading Brecken Hancock's sublime The Art of Plumbing, that's my reaction.  Hancock is coming and she means business and there is no way we are not all going to hear about it.  The Art of Plumbing is one of the most exciting reads I've had this year -- and it has been a very good year for Canadian poetry.

     603 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon crawls like a vole through the
     dust.  For seven years he lives with beasts, tearing and eating his own skin.
     God tortures him with dementia, body lice, swampy testicles, and
     incontinence.  In every bracken bush he sees a nightjar, the psychopomp's
     familiar, come to chirr him down to the Great Below.  Finally pardoned for
     sin of arrogance and allowed to live, he returns to the Hanging
     Gardens where slaves sluice the filth from his body, scrubbing him with
     soap congealed from goat blubber and cremation ash.

Broom Broom, a full length volume of poetry is forthcoming from Coach House Press and not a moment too soon.  Hancock simply stuns the reader with her dexterity, humour, breadth and wisdom.  The Art of Plumbing, a short chapbook of narrative prose poems is one of those rare finds, one of those remarkable "remember this" moments.

     1348 CE Forty-five percent of Europe's population succumbs to the
     Black Death.  Bathing, thought to transmit disease through the pores of the
     body, begins to decline as common practice.  One hundred and fifty years
     later, Queen Isabella of Castile boasts of having bathed only twice in her
     lifetime: once at birth and once on her wedding day.

Writing this blog is a gas when there is so much great Canadian poetry out there -- finding someone like Brecken Hancock is like finding an undiscovered Brando film.  Rob McLennan's above/ground press continues to discover some of the best new voices in the country.

     1984 CE When his fishing trawler sinks, Guolaugur Frioporsson swims
     six hours in the North Atlantic off the coast of the Westman Islands.  Two
     fellow fisherman die of hypothermia, but "the miracle man" somehow
     survives the cold and the Kraken by talking to mukki, sea birds, and
     unknowingly relying on his seal-like fat, found later to be three times
     thicker than usual for humans.  Finally navigating the cliffs and crawling
     up onto an ancient lava field, Frioporsson walks barefoot over two
     kilometers of terrain.  His soles turn to ribbons that unravel across pumice
     humps of molten rock.  He finds a bathtub meant to trough sheep and
     punches a hole through its ice, finally plunging his face in the fresh water
     to drink.

I really don't know whether to spit, swear or swallow - I liked this chapbook that much.  Start the line-up now for her first book.  Stunning.


above/groundpress.blogspot.com





PLEASE NOTE:  Off to houseboat through the Kawartha Lakes.  Will return September 8th.  Stay tuned.