Review: Plumstuff

Rolli, 98 pgs, 8th House Publishing,, $13.88

Saskatchewan poet Rolli, also known as Charles Anderson, is one of those playful polymaths who wins you over with his humour and whimsical line-drawings then bludgeons you with gleeful irreverence and wordplay. And what a quirky and fanciful bludgeoning it turns out to be! Best known for his illustrations, Rolli’s poetic voice is often likened to e.e. cummings’ light verse, chiefly in how he toys with syntax and nonsense. But there’s a keen sardonic edge, too — think of Shel Silverstein and Hilaire Belloc.

Plumstuff is both a wild curiosity shop and a curiosity itself. It is a remix of the author’s debut book, Plum Stuff, published in 2010. It includes revisions of the earlier poems, new illustrations, and many new pieces. It’s thinner than the original, which was 130 pages, and maintains only five of the nine sections from that volume. Fortunately, Rolli’s bleak humour appears to have survived the cull. Here’s an example from the collection’s opener: “If ever I write a book / so bland / it’s championed / by every / living / critic / seize / my pen / and bash me / compassionately / until / I’m still.

It certainly isn’t bland, but I fear Rolli faces the genuine threat of critics liking it.