Paper Radio is written with the confidence of a teenager carving her arm. In poems like “Honour Roll Student Drunk at Pep Rally,” Rogers deploys the second person address with defiant aplomb. Rebellion whips through the piece with the sweet intoxication of the rum and Cokes they “pound,” resulting in epiphanies about great places to drink PBR and roll a joint. The speaker’s accomplice receives the rapid-fire litany of her desires and is invited to feel her up, to share the rush of her intoxication. “Look honey, it’s not rocket science” she cajoles, taking the driver’s seat literally and rhetorically.
Along with place, another of Rogers’ strengths is the expression of frank longing. Lines like “There will be things worth writing down,” the bittersweet conclusion of “A Great Happiness Awaits” is a kind of comfort in a poem about being the “other woman” in an affair. Surreal pieces like “Sun Down” in which an explanation for the sky being torn off the horizon is offered by “feral scientists” suggest values that have consequence beyond the realm of the surreal.
Finally, Rogers is able to execute that most important of the poet’s tasks, seeing the atypical in the typical, in “Sleeping Til Ten,” the title itself suggests asceticism, in which the rather conservative sleep-in time of 10 is noteworthy, guilt addled and forbidden. The poem captures the excitement of childhood and “wondering if I can be paid in toys.” The simplistic values implied are made problematic by the dramatization of consumerist values: “I dreamed I swallowed an anchor and sunk/ to the bottom of a bottomless sea./ I was wearing spectacular, red-feathered shoes.” The consumer durable is notable, the shoes, readily elided with The Wizard of Oz, or extrapolated into Cinderella, or Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes, the cultural weight of that image engaged to strengthen the line. An auspicious debut. (Angela Hibbs)
by Damian Rogers, $16.95, 94 pgs ECW Press, 2120 Queen St. E, Suite 200, Toronto, ON, M4E 1E2