Cigarette Salad

Experimental and political, Mike Freeman’s poems sometimes work and sometimes don’t. The author uses a lot of alliteration, as in “Dead Time,” where “life limps forward lost in dreams of living” and “time twists turns back towards itself.” He is often witty and sarcastic, which works well in pieces like “A Slight Dating Error”: “I offer you my heart/ Ripped from my peeled-back rib cage/ with dripping veins and dangling arteries/ twitching ventricle and a gaping aorta/ that pukes gouts of semi-coagulated blood/ on your Prada shoes every ? of a second./ Why won’t you take it?” In Freeman’s poem “Anger is an Energy,” dedicated to Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, his cynicism sums up a movement: “Inglorious, early death I wished for you./ To stand above your grave and chant:/ ‘Raze the parliament buildings./ Torch the church and library./ Make the wankers bleed.’/ And for a moment really think I meant it.” The book is divided into a “Smoking Section” and a “Non-Smoking Section,” because Freeman quit smoking halfway through. On the back cover readers are invited to “observe firsthand the effects of nicotine on the mind of a poet,” and warned that “nicotine withdrawal may lead to surrealism.” There is a lot of material in this book that made me chuckle, and quite a few instances of touching insight. However, poems like “Causality Brunch,” which consists mainly of the line “egg chicken chicken egg,” repeated, and forays into the mind of a transparently-disguised George W. Bush in “The Improbable Real Life Adventures of a Man Called W,” lose me. Freeman’s word use is sometimes awkward and does not always live up to his ideas. In the end, though, always unpredictable and well-supported by its humour and variety, Cigarette Salad is well worth a read. (Sarah Nelson)

by Mike Freeman, $17.95, 90 pages, Bibliopunk Press, Unit 205 — 85 Harbord St., Toronto, ON, M5S 1G4,


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