Jamie Sharpe, 80 pgs, ECW Press, ecwpress.com, $18.95
Named after a painting style used to camouflage WWI ships, Jamie Sharpe’s collection of poetry is a self-reflective exploration of anxiety and ways to hide it. With a humorous yet self-aware tone, Jamie studies the intersections between everyday life and the discomforts that they happen to bring.
His poetry couples quirky sharpness with quiet observations. When discussing drunken disputes between lovers, Jamie writes: “don’t tell me. Spit Pinot Grigio / in my face.” These quick and punchy lines are wonderfully witty and effectively overshadow the anxieties being addressed in them. Even the most critical of eyes are misdirected by the humour. In “Can Remember No Poems of Memorable Quality,” Jamie notes that “in the critical edition of this book / the editor, an esteemed scholar, / points out the funny bits.” And now I can’t help but wonder; is he relieved that his dazzle was a brilliant success or concerned at how easily it is to distract the lot of us?
Another subject tackled in the collection is the state of knowing and not knowing. The two poems “20/20 Prophecy” and “After 2020” create a hilarious before-and-after image. In “20/20 Prophecy,” the speaker opens with “the day of the pink cross / pregnancy test, I lugged our cat / into the alley and shot her / with a Super Soaker.” But once safely past the Earth’s expiry date, the speaker now writes: “transcend by lottery, poetry, rye. / let me be your tambourine / or hi-hat on a drum machine / though I know / no song.” The urgency of “20/20 Prophecy” completely dissipates in “After 2020.” Hastiness to take care of life’s loose ends is replaced with the slow romancing affordable with the luxury of time. Overall, Dazzle Ships is a thoughtful collection with lots of “funny bits,” lots of insightful bits and is simply a delight to read.