The greatest trick McGimpsey has ever played on Canadian poetry is convincing it he doesn’t exist. It could be argued that the “I” in Sitcom, (the poet’s fourth collection) which is at times a novelistic jaunt through gender dementia and vocational satire, is interpretively transcendent.
McGimpsey is as much the reader, the poet, Jan Brady, Potsie as he is the little blonde girl in poltergeist screwing with perception, chewing on the rabbit ears and peeing on the rug, shorting out the movie set. Coach House can be accused of writing such convincing copy on their books that at times, it can affect the outcome of book reviews. Like reading a really good synopsis of a television show or a sports recap, in some cases these summaries can act as industry “spoilers.”
McGimpsey’s influence dwarfs his actuality. Early in the work “Reunion” and “Invitation” are lyrical and hilarious rants that announce themselves with maudlin charm, and explain why McGimpsey is one of the best “live acts” in Canadian poetry to date. Sitcom is not a one-trick pony, relying on the reader’s knowledge of television for enjoyment. It’s poetry after all, and this depressing fact is something McGimpsey plays with throughout the book.
The limits of poetry are as real as the limits of television. It’s the message, the meaning and the tone of the work that makes it last.
McGimpsey’s target audience is set on “human beings” or “us”. No one is safe. In “Montreal” the poet writes, “Montreal winters are like a hundred funerals,’ I said to my new best friend in the world, ‘if by a hundred you mean a thousand.” and later, free of television static comes a most beautiful poem, “October” which is a moving piece about the importance of a sibling who has passed. “To the edge of her stone / there’s a soft patch with bright shamrocks / and plastic roses in a coffee can.” McGimpsey can be accused of appropriating his work from a stinky barrel of out-of-work actors, random extras and expired trivial pursuit answers, (Bailey Quarters, Tootie and Murray Slaughter) however to summarize the entire work as such would be quotidian for even the most lowly of book reviews. Like poets centuries before who wrote about the comings and goings of “celebrity” or locals in their scene, so too does McGimpsey, with justified meanness and vilification.
While some poets in Canadian publishing are moving towards minimalism, even crossing over to ESL workbook or Mad-Lib brevity, McGimpsey is a gentle rampage with a focus on failure which cannot be seen as incidental. In “Rejection”, the publishing landscape (particularly poetry) is hung out to dry in sweeping accusations and implications that will make the most jaded cultural worker cry tears of pathos.
While Sitcom seems to be a conflict between high and lowbrow aesthetic, of cultural/capitalistic dominance over tender individuality, it is also a structured wonder. What Sitcom will do for you is up to you. As for those it may mock or save, (listen up “Li-Lo”, there’s a piece in here for you) the vacant-faced staff at the Gap (or you text messaging your dealer) may never be known. Perhaps some advice from the poem “Redemption” through the voice of Shania, will lure you to investigate further, (“Take it easy, Hoss, lie down without embarrassment.”)
Without the brain damage of a capitalistic whore of a jingle, McGimpsey’s well-crafted masterpiece is something to cherish and fall in love with. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. Suckers! (Nathaniel G. Moore)
by David McGimpsey, $16.95, 111 pgs, Coach House Books, 401 Huron Street on bpNichol Lane, Toronto, ON, M5S 2G5, chbooks.com