Cruise Missile Liberals
Spencer Gordon, 96 pages, Nightwood Editions, nightwoodeditions.com, $18.95
In its titular poem, “Cruise Missile Liberals,” Spencer Gordon sketches out the picture of liberalism in the modern world. A listicle:
“1. Vibrating Nylon Work to Rule,
2. Editorial White Flights,
3. Self-Care Class War,
4. Chic Austerity,
5 . H a n g r y E x t i n c t i o n ,
6 . E c o Gentrification, and
7. Disruptive Socialist.”
It is a picture of here and now in excess — an observation of the difficulty of living in today’s unjust world, what it means and how to navigate our political and social ideologies in all their exhaustion and absurdity. There is a playfulness to the poem’s tone that echoes throughout the rest of the collection. It is a playfulness that cannot be mistaken for the collection’s optimism, but rather one that is grounded in irony.
Here, nothing is insular. Sectioned in four parts (“Unbearingly Cute, “Staycation,” “Living in Disney,” “The Ruling System”), Cruise Missile Liberals interacts with the local, the national, and the global with the clout of popular culture and late capitalism. The poetry community is placed in conversation with t h e Tr u d e a u g o v e r n m e n t , w i t h Instagram, with Facebook, with Hilary, and with Donald. Sometimes, we are sat amongst a group of late 20-somethings living in Toronto, amidst a crisis in the poem “Happy Birthday, Toronto!” Sometimes, we’re responding to Taylor Swift, confronted with Avril Lavigne, or n o s t a l g i c f o r C a s p e r a n d J e s u s . Sometimes, “The North Remembers” is more than a memorable line in Game of Thrones but also recalls the torrid Northern climate in “Roughing It,” like the way the present will always be haunted by the past.
Cruise Missile Liberals delivers a complex picture of the present. It is a collection brimming with tongue-and-cheek lyrical excessiveness. And nothing short of unapologetic for an author’s poetry debut in Canadian literature.