Who doesn’t enjoy entering a funhouse of mirrors at a county fair or city exhibition? You pay your five-spot (or get discount tickets), glance at yourself in the convex madness for a few minutes, and exit back into the brilliant sun or tragic snow.
Now imagine yourself as you open the pages to Jeramy Dodds’ latest poetry collection, Drakkar Noir. You chuckle a few times during the madcap shifts and distorted riffs, but you can’t exit, not if you want the whole experience. So you read the rest of the book, and the relentless one-note antics turn from humourous to annoying to numbing.
You’re led to believe the intention is to “bravely chas[e] after the new gods of our post-electric reality” which will reveal “the truth about what the hell is happening to us” (from Robert Montgomery), yet as soon as the carnival packs up, the contorted images disappear, and are remembered, if remembered at all, as adolescent jackanapes after a bender on chloroform.
Dodds isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to yoke comic absurdity with the whole nine yards of the contemporary information freeway. And he offers the add-ons of wordplay: homonyms, double entendres, rhyme replacements mid-phrase, arcane pairings. But a funhouse doesn’t refer to what’s outside of it, to “what the hell is happening to us”, it refers only to itself, and is giddy with what it sees, precisely because it ain’t real. Or of any import. Here’re a few examples:
“After a brief period of mourning, it was afternoon./This mirror is selfie-proof”.
“My daughter starts dating a dwarf./They attend a Bergman retrospective;/she gets home after midnight, every night./My child is nine” ... “He was wearing one of my shirts, taken in:/ ‘Time Traveller Caught with Miner,’ ” ... “ ‘Will you be heading to the beheading?’ ”
And so on.
Stay for the first few punch lines. Then cut your losses and get out.