Wednesday, May 09, 2018

How Festive the 'Cultural Acclimation or the #$@&%*! in FU

 If it be the job of the poet to capture the zeitgeist of the moment or reflect the feeling of the times in the same way that Shakespeare captured Jacobean society (or more certainly the language of Elizabethan England) or the way that the Psalms captured Biblical times then a modern poet must capture modern times surely?

In How Festive the Ambulance, an incisive stab at the quest to be heard (on several continents) the ambition of Kim Fu's assured d├ębut may put off many veterans of poetry who see poetry as a higher art form. That is not to say that the book falters because it is not finely written but more to say that poetry can be so many things. Alternatively if poetry is 'a trick on the page', or has a foot in both worlds as entertainment and enlightenment then surely somewhere in the arrangement of words the reader must be intrigued to search for deeper meaning. This book achieves this quest in a subtle way by placing the voice deep in the text, like the voice of a plotter heard through a wall who may or not be saying: ' If you haven't caught it yet no one believes what you want them to believe: the message in many cases could be an unequivocal Fuck You!! If protest be the food of modern life, is it fair to ask what the protest is against?  HFTA seduces quietly by starting with offhand remarks.

'Winnipeg has the highest density
of mosquitos per square mile
on earth'

So starts the introduction to the world of FU in 'I READ SOMEWHERE'. 

This Winnipeg trivia, which would equally get a laugh in a pub as elicit a wry smile from a child in a Grade seven class, makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall spying on a group of passive aggressive millenials or singletons.

In the title poem, the poet's ability to arrange the words in a detached cadence is showcased:

How Festive the ambulance looks
studded with jewel coloured lights

ruby and amber on the outer rim of the Ferris wheel

The meaning of the poem is obscured by the slow style until we realise in DEAR RACHEL, I BORROWED YOUR CAR, that Rachel, has been put in 'neutral'  has rolled off the pier in her car and the ambulance may or may not be there for her. Is this the little sense of outrage in these times in which language is forgotten as if the Rosetta stone or translation services to the world have left us reduced to a simple stifled expression that no one can be bothered to respond to?
The delight of FU is that she is able to show this by taking stabs at the meanings of being alive and fighting to say I see you but perhaps you don't see me. Is the neutrality of the world there in the actions of the people, shrinking away from each other left to communicate through digital means, separated by miles and miles of email and data breaching? 


'A teacher says I would be punished
for my mediocrity with a tiny apartment
in the land of the dead'

So is there anything here other than a strange arrangement of words? If the poet must commit, then FU does a good job of keeping you ready, like a teacher hearing inane conversations before the class erupts and all the year nines have pen and ink on them. Speaking of teaching, how many high school students would tactfully restrain themselves before they picked up on the #$@&%*! in FU?

FU has a beleagured sense of modern life (and one may imagine the myriad electronic gizmos that accompany it).

'You left Buenos Aires for New York, New York for Bombay, Bombay for Paris. I am trying to find beauty in an overturned bread bowl.'


'That he addressed her in English: Don't
though his accent was Francophone...

Somewhere through all of this conversation there is a light bulb going off and the readers gets a sense of the silent subversive joker laughing at the world but also looking at the boredom and apathy around us.



I stay up late
because the act of brushing my teeth
and laying my glasses on the bedside table
means there is nothing left to see.

The self awareness is also palpable for someone who may prefer not to be seen as well. 


I have a forgettable face. It allows me to belch in public, to fart, to wipe snot on my sleeve, because I don't know these people and they won't remember me.

The poems talk about the end of the mind, the end of the reliance of the mind and the simple protests that are there in daily life to shriek out against this, in little stabs and knocks at the great slumbering muse in all of us.


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