Asbestos Heights - The Canonical Notebooks. David McGimpsey. Coach House Press. Toronto, Ontario. 2015.
You just can't stop reading David McGimpsey once you start, his poems are like potato chips you've kept in the freezer, perfect salty and crisp.
Asbestos Heights is what happens when one of the best poets in the land riffs in hungry excitement. Trying to tell you what it is about would be like pointing to a set of encyclopedia set in witty type, a baseball box-score sheet in strict limerick form and all the menus from all of the best burger joints from here to end of time, and saying "here, read this."
There are two kinds of people in the world:
those who say they love to eat pomegranates
and those who tell the truth. But, yes, they're red,
and healthy foods taste either red or red.
Steak, cherry popsicle, red velvet cake.
Full of such health, I stayed up all summer
sketching a fringe play called Dangling Apricocks
and collapsing somewhere near Jolicoeur.
When somebody looks over their glasses and says,
'Look at it this way, m'sieur, you have a scar
but at least you still have most of your face,'
what can you say but, 'D'you like daiquiris?'
Healthy red medicines, or even those blushed
Pepto pink, die in the Canadian cold;
you can't keep Diet Coke at home for fear
the deliciousness will dull you to God.
These poems are peppered with characters like "Herman 'Babe' Melville" and McGimpsey cracks me up. I guess you could say that there is baseball in here, you'd have say it, but it would be a bit like saying that there's hockey in the Canadian dream. Baseball is just one of McGimpsey's personae. It could just as easily be astronomy - McGimpsey is going to soar regardless up into that stratosphere where we, the reader, simply want more.
Take this morning's reading. Milo simply would not sit down. Of course every poem he read sounded like a love poem and he was aiming them all at Kathryn. It was very touching and very funny, Milo was playing the giant ham in love and it was endearing. Milo's reading and McGimpsey's poems have left everyone in the office feeling better. Somehow these poems imbue the reader with some of the poet's confidence. How charming is that?
Whitman saw great things in the 'game of base'
and predicted that one day there'd be a team
in Albany called the Angel-Snappers
who would play shirtless in the summer sun.
When the rules disallowed 'soaking'
(throwing a runner out by throwing at him),
the fun of Whitman's game was gone,
and he died good in Camden, New Jersey.
Nineteenth-century baseball, as you know,
featured spectacular mustachio play
and ad endorsements were for 'stropping,'
'hamboiling,' 'stonerail fixing' and 'unsnaking,'
Whitman's baseball rap has no real substance,
of course; his thoughts on the game exist
to comfort all washed-up peanut-tossers,
long assured they were unfit for poetry.
David "The Crown Prince of Canadian Poetry" McGimpsey is going to absolutely delight his current legion of fans with Asbestos Heights and gain new poetry armies of followers from anyone who opens the book.
Today's book of poetry is convinced that no poet in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, writes with more joy than our esteemed David McGimpsey. These poems sparkle with Coltranesque wit, McGimpsey riffs through scales that include all the known notes and a few of his own. It is splendid stuff.
Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen kept four wrens in
her apartment in Toronto, once even sewing little Beatles
outfits for them.
Daily, I curl into whatever fries
and curd combination keeps me alive,
and by alive I just mean witlessly
reply-tweeting to Alyssa Milano.
I'm not saying I suddenly got too old.
I was too old years ago. That was clear
when I started buying things - anything -
that promised cheap relief of ankle pain.
My mother would cry if she knew how
much money I waste on taxis. I pray
I get through lunch without hearing someone
say, 'I, the Duke of Poetry, spit on you!'
I cry when I listen to those country songs
written at the height of the Iraq War.
I mean, those are the only things that ever
move me to tears now that my friends are gone.
Today's book of poetry declares today David McGimpsey Day! These poems will swipe that smile right off of your face and replace it with a smirk.
O Captain, my Captain!
NOTE: You have to read what Michael Robbins says in the BLURB below. What he said.
ABOUT THE AUTHORDavid McGimpsey is the author of five collections of poetry includingLi'l Bastard which was named one of the 'books of the year' by both theQuill & Quire and the National Post and was shortlisted for Canada's Governor General's Award. He is also the author of the short fiction collection Certifiable and the award-winning critical study Imagining Baseball: America's Pastime and Popular Culture. Named by the CBC as one of the 'Top Ten English language poets in Canada,' his work was also the subject of the book of essays Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey. He lives in Montréal.
"David McGimpsey is unfuckwithable, poetrywise, and I'll stand on John Ashbery's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."
- Michael Robbins
Reads at the opening night of VERSeFest
2011, Ottawa, Ontario
video: versefest's channel
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