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Connolly’s Revolver

I mentioned briefly here that I was reading Kevin Connolly’s Revolver a few weeks ago. Like Marcus I was anticipating hearing him in person at the Ottawa writers festival.

Connolly’s newest book Revolver is set up so that each poem has to be a challenge to be different from any other in the book. In form, voice, tone and style, each poem is. It’s quite remarkable. It’s got a sweet and sharp balance. Serious and funny, seriously funny and moving without the sense of trying to push and shove the reader down a chute.

They are 45 “contraptions made of words” which “morph you into heartfelt syntax”. He set out to challenge and entertain himself. He said in a writers fest panel that he enjoys the writing process but after publication, things are awkward.

He feels like the Johnnie Jackass of Canadian literature for trying so many things in one work but it works from the get-go, or in other words, it works from the title piece and doesn’t stop working yet doesn’t feel laboured. It fills the brain but it’s a good fill.

The title piece that opens with surrealism of A tiny acrobat walks a rope of milk/whitewash in microform, history pelted,. Other poems are as distinct like a Powder Keg where

Let’s decide now, it’s all euphemism:
“I hang my hammer by the claw
in your dewy branches….” Which
could mean anything, granted,

but you’ll have to agree
it’s pretty suggestive.
Like that the grass that grows
under your feet and over mine.

To pick any sample of poem is to mislead of what to expect on any other page, which I personally love.

One poem reads like those ubiquitous puzzle book logic paragraphs to figure out whose name did what where. On p. 72 Really Need Ted Lilly to Throw the Hook, it’s all dense sports jargon which on a literal level, I haven’t a clue about but it’s a sort of read me the phone book and I’ll listen to the way you can trip sounds along.

On page 30 and the next few there’s Litany where someone is cross examined for a cull of birds which plays against cliché of histrionic poems and badgering witnesses. Each question and matter of fact reply intensifying the other.

Did the moon weep and fret at their growing peril?


Did you weep?

No, not initially.

But when it came, did your weeping fill a thousand barrels?

Yes, and ten times as many.

When your tears came, did they fill a thousand thimbles?

No, not so much as that.

Did the beach ache with your misplaced sympathy?


Can you think of a more apt metaphor for your distress?

Perhaps, but not at the moment.

In questions Kevin Connolly, having written a couple collections of poetry, was asked to describe why he chose to make a table of contents in Revolver which doesn’t list the poems. He explained that a table of contents seems a vestige of the 19th century. What good does it serve in a book of 45 poems? It’s 70 pages at the most. He took an idea of Bill Knott. Knott’s book Autonecrophilia – people clapped at that title, yeah, isn’t that best poetry book title ever? said Connolly before going on – used a list of B Monster movies instead of the table of contents.

Connolly was inspired to do something similar. Each title is associated with the song on the page number and are tracks he was listening to when writing the book.

The book makes for interesting reading that leaps associatively and logically but with no sense of frenetic, and no sense of unconsidered, the next placement of verbal foot sure.

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2 Responses

  1. knott

    . . . since you’re mentioning me, and linking to some old poems of mine,

    may I please take the occasion to invite all to my blog

    whereon I have posted all my poetry, every poem I’ve written since 1960, for open access and free download . ..

    regards from Bill Knott

    AnonymousApril 22, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] Connolly is the next feature reader at Tree on May 11. I mentioned reading his last book and seeing him at the OIWF 2 years […]