A magical filmic quality infiltrates Nick Thran’s most recent collection. Viewpoints shift according to the book’s three-part structure. The eye of the camera first captures site-specific interactions then pulls back to expose the surreal qualities of contemporary decadence. In the final part, the lens zooms into the raw truths of existence in everyday situations, an approach that conjures cinéma vérité.
Similar to a film’s establishing shot, Mayor Snow opens with “Yours, Al” to deliver the ‘where, when and why’ of the book’s first part. Addressing Al Purdy during a retreat in the very A-Frame where the late poet lived, Thran observes, “You are / projected from my laptop screen,” and then, existentially asks, “What is it / doing to my face / to be here in your life / in my life?” But this is not any ordinary moment; it turns out “A man / has just opened fire / on Parliament Hill.”
Subsequent poems tell of a couple and their infant daughter inhabiting the lakeside setting, vividly brought to life by incidence. In “Local Weirdos,” the narrator slices his hand with a knife and is sutured by a steady doctor who “works the thread and needle, saying, / ‘Knew there was a poet in our midst, but to us / he was just another one of the local weirdos.’” This perspective, at once perversely humorous and bitingly truthful, is artfully maintained throughout the book.
In the second part, the thematic develops into an astute exposure of political corruption and inequality. Thran delivers with surgical precision and remarkable diversity of form. In one of two prose poems with the same title, “Run With The Creeps,” a character regards a custom-made leather shoe through a shop window. “Starting price: five grand.” He lingers there “knowing it’s creepy to linger, maybe even to wonder. Then a sewer rat slides out from inside of the shoe” and a connection’s established: the elite, or 1%, characterized as a rodent. Pages later, the second “Run With The Creeps” mirrors the first’s form except this time the mood is film noir. A character lies in bed with a woman. As he considers the atrocities taking place outside in the dark, the camera captures meat cleavers and compost bins before focusing on him:? “No one’s born a creep, he thinks; it comes upon you with the stealth of silverfish.”
The insidious yet seductive qualities of the drone, a recurring metaphor in the collection, are epitomized in “Mayor Drone.” The found poem draws on a Time Magazine article by Martha Stewart on why she loves her drone to satirize the 1%’s revelry in its high end stuff.
Zooming into the reality of the other 99%, the book’s third part depicts life on the margins. “Riverstone” describes working in a Toronto boutique hotel parking cars, carrying luggage, scamming hotel guests. “I do it to try to redeem an idea of myself. Though I failed // night after night to do anything good.” But grace and redemption lie in the sublimely rendered close-ups, as in “Marginalia” where Thran lyrically describes reading a wife’s book: ?“There are so many / scrawls in the margins that reading this book // is like moving my hands through her hair.”
Cora Siré is the author of a collection of poems, Signs of Subversive Innocents (Signature Editions, 2014), and The Other Oscar, a novel forthcoming in 2016 (Quattro Books). Her website is www.quena.ca.
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