Poetry Review: Shut Up Slow Down Let Go Breathe

Shut Up Slow Down Let Go Breathe

Marcus McCann, 96 pages, Invisible Publishing, invisiblepublishing.com, $16.95

Toronto is about as peaceful as my lactose-intolerant stomach after drinking milk. The city is synonymous with bombardment, overstimulation, and squeamishness. Does calm exist here? And if she does, how do we find her? Marcus McCann plays with answering this question in the collection Shut Up Slow Down Let Go Breathe.

The melodic “Lyric for a Little Lullaby” opens the collection. The lines are inspired by those ominous subway announcements of transit delays: “We are currently experiencing a delay / west-bound at Bay. / Efforts to resume / regular service / are underway.” This is a familiar voice now broken into a measured step. Comfortable. Friendly. Kind. Halting. As promised, the transit lullaby rocks us to disarmed and restful sleep. Some great ideas for the TTC, if they’re interested.

Other poems in the collection document personal anxieties of queerness, aging, the weird responsibility of being in the world with others. His words reverberate with those of us who have been there and done that. A new party anthem for the self-aware, Marcus writes, “I apologize for smothering the fun out of karaoke. But not really. / I peel packing tape from the skin of audiences” in “On Not Being Able to Sing.” He also tackles the professional anxieties when you write your resume or cover letter and must offer “an explanation of how you were gingerbreaded from the dough of their firm / at birth” in the aptly named “Cover Letter”. Public, private, professional anxiety-inducers all.

Marcus’ poetry collects the anxieties built from a combination of interactions within the city, between people, and with oneself. We are asked to slow our pace a heartbeat and observe those interactions. Document the anxieties. Laugh at them a little. Marcus guides us through a Toronto where the calm exists within the chaos, and we are only a car wreck away from finding it. (Jean Mathew)

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