Sunday, September 21, 2008

Guilty? Fiver? Sat it?

I received Guilt Pasta after a long hot night down in the Poetry Cafe bowers in London. It was a straight swap cross a table for Taking The Stairs and I was drunk n tired and trying to organize a session in Leytonstone with a friend who was visiting from Sardinia. The book came to me from a young Canadian guy I'd heard of but had never seen perform: Jeff Cottrill. He was a friendly guy but was economical with the chit chat. He was from Toronto, he was on tour, doing the rounds, Liverpool, London (Xpress Excess, I think) and so on. I thought he was the best and most entertaining poet on the night. When I got home that night - or maybe a few days later - I was surprised to find Eating Fruit out of Season in the mail from an old friend from 'Trono, David Livingston Clink. Given the history, the T.O. connection, I thought I'd givvver a whirl.
So...
There is a tense pace to Cottrill's writing, mostly set in offices and apartments and I could relate to the sarcasm of the tone given my own dire experiences in offices. "The Fiver" is one of those short stories, a thematic link. The dreaded reunion with an irritating, bored co-worker is funny and almost metallic in tone:

"Don't take this personally," I told him, "but you're and idiot."
Then I turned away and got back to work.

Cottrill then turns his attention to other wise ass adventures such as "To Kill a Mouse" or "How I Freaked out the Spider Man Guy." So, you might ask: How did you freak out the SMG? Answer: by telling this Wisconson internet addict (SMG) that Canadian Paul Soles voiced the early seventies NBC spiderman cartoons. Sorry to spoil that one for you but the feeling as the stories unfold is that Cottrill is whetting our appetite for the "main event" and that we will be back for round two and three and four of "The Fiver". I won't spoil this for you, though, so go and read the book.



Poet David Clink hearkens in places for childhood, though the middle-aged poet hovers in each section: the distiinctive voice of the librarian or brother or humourist friend is carefully and skillfully revealed in each section. There are a lot of stories about frogs and trees and death and sorting poetry books by last name and the humour is very richly conveyed with a human quality. Sadness and regret and wisdom is conveyed such as in The Creaking Cottage Door:

"...the lake has taken the smell of your hair from me..."

There are some good lines in many of the poems and the interest in science fiction cannot be overlooked as in the Earth as Egg section. But as a conversation meanders and keeps your interest so does the collection and it is the skill of the poet to make you think and Clink makes you do just that:

"Hercules, when dying, wonders how a Bumble Bee can remain aloft with such small wings."

There are common themes in both these books - prose and poetry - hints of anger, sarcasm but Clink escapes with his imagination, into the stratosphere, his human and scientific interest intact. With Cottrill he has a go at his co-workers and people are foils for his observations; true, the scenes are a little Travis Bickle but the intensity moves the narrative along. As a performer, Cottrill is unique, the work is Canadian, accessible and he has this admirable quality on page and stage.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff Cottrill said...

Thanks for the plug, John! Much appreciated.
I haven't gotten around to reading your novel yet but it's coming up soon on my (lengthy) reading list.

Cheers.

4:20 pm  

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