Friday, May 2, 2014

Cam Gordon reviews Aaron Tucker's Punchlines (2013) in Broken Pencil #63

Cam Gordon reviews Aaron Tucker's Punchlines (2013) in Broken Pencil #63. Thanks, Cam! A relatively positive review, I'm still a bit baffled in how the reviewer, through misunderstanding what is happening (which is completely fine) somehow comes to the conclusion that the poems within therefore are meant to make no sense and have no purpose other than nonsense. Note how the reviewer, mid-review, also starts referring to Tucker as "Taylor" for some reason (I corrected this and a couple of other typos in the original review in square brackets).

This is actually the second review of Adams' book, after Ryan Pratt discussed such over at the ottawa poetry newsletter, a review that puts far more effort into attempting to understand Tucker's work on its own terms.

Poetry in the purest sense, Punchlines collects a dozen or so works by young Aaron Tucker of (somewhere) Ontario and binds them into a tidy, no-frills package. I suppose the central theme i "poetry as the punchline" since each piece is titled with a joke-y moniker. For example, there is "Did you hear about the elephant on the crash diet?," "What did the cowboy say when he found his dog was missing?" and the post-millen[n]ial favourite "What did the Twitter say to the Facebook?" The titles' correlation with the prose is entirely indirect in the obvious sense. Accordingly, the most engaging element of this collection is its attempt to make the connection between title and words. The reader's task is to look for clues to Tucker's M.O. for naming these poems as he did. The challenge is he may have a reason, or he may not. And that's OK, because while a lot of these poems are massively abstract, Taylor [Tucker] harvests his words in an unexplanably easy fashion. Accordingly, the reader is never left with the impression of an artist who is being wilfully obscure in an attempt to be -- well, wilful. Taylor [Tucker] simply is matching up and manoeuvering the language in a good-natured manner, using a play-on-words here and a bit of misplaced punctuation there. The ultimate reward may be the fact that there isn't any sense to be made -- and that's oddly satisfying as Punchlines is clearly making zero effort to be something it's not. Seriously.

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