Chapbook Review: Vertex/Vertigo

Vertex / Vertigo
Chapbook, John Oughton, 24 pgs,, $10

Vertex / Vertigo presents its audience with an interestingly Canadian vision. Some of the poems play with stereotypical Canadian images and concepts. “For Mr. Hockey,” is a tribute to Gordie Howe and to Death, “in his black and white stripes.” There’s a dark sense of humour that playfully undercuts these references, which might be rather boring otherwise. And yet, there are also works that possess a more serious tone. “Grey Sky,” for example, makes no attempt to blandish its skeptical tongue: “this sky scrubbed of variation, suggests we can start the whole / human thing over, delete thousands of years / of wars, abusing women and children, / destroying nature / Begin again, Finnegan, / with the cleanest slate. / But we won’t.” Take it as a blanket condemnation of modernity (post- or otherwise), or as a critique of Canada’s self-righteous neo-enlightenment attitudes, mythic worlds offer no comfort. “It’s the same old world, and we / are no better / than yesterday.” Overall, Vertex / Vertigo offers perspective when it wants to, while other times it sits back and snickers from the sidelines — er, penalty box. (Jeff Low)