Zine Review: Zoom

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Poetry zine, Stephen Cain, issue 1, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.com, $4

This is an excellent collection of poetry for people who don’t care if the words make sense. Cain plays with sound, sight, and meaning in a chapbook that hearkens back to the Dada days of early modernism. He engages with sound poems by the likes of Kurt Schwitters and Claude Gauvreau in a process of reversehomophonic translation. He listens to poems that lack semantic meaning and finds words in them. It’s all quite fun. Compare Hugo Ball’s lines “zitti kitillabi billabi billabi / zikko di zakkobam / fisch kitti bisch ” with Cain’s ”city kitty liable billy’s bi billy’s bi / sicko the psycho man / fish kitty bisque.” The transfer from meaningless sounds into words with definitions pits sense against nonsense. Cain is a man drunk on word spitting and hollering joyful absurdities. His juxtapositions are rapid and twitchy and unexpected. The work demands to be read aloud. Cain is a professor at York University, where he has initiated many a student into the secrets of Dada, Surrealism, and the avant-garde. This guy is deep in the history of experimental poetry, and thus finds himself in line with innovative Canadians like The Four Horsemen, Chris Dewdney, and Christian Bok. His work strikes a balance between thoughtfulness and playfulness that is appealing even when it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Highly recommended to weirdos. (Neal Armstrong)

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