yesno

Dennis Lee composed the lyrics for all the songs from Fraggle Rock and he cowrote Labyrinth; that alone is strong evidence that he is Canada’s greatest poet. But aside from all the successful and influential children’s literature he’s created, the co-founder of Anansi and former Poet Laureate of Toronto has also written plenty of serious poetry intended for adults, and in yesno, a continuation of the cycle that began with 2003’s un, he shows that his masterful and innovative style remains in full force. The primary theme of yesno is paradox, specifically the mess of contradictions that come along with living in the 21st Century, in which the present is also the future, and where it’s often difficult to make out whether that’s Utopia or Armageddon out there on the horizon. Lee’s style perfectly exemplifies this complexity, inviting comparison to James Joyce and Lewis Carroll, frequently using words that do not actually exist; but what becomes obvious once you’ve drawn it out is that Lee’s practice of neologism, far from being merely puns or simple nonsense, turns out to be the only method that’s completely effective in communicating the intended message. Yesno is at once playful and deadly serious, at times despairing yet still hopeful. Yesno is further proof that Lee’s place in the pantheon of Canadian poets is assured. (Richard Rosenbaum)

Poetry, 65 pgs, by Dennis Lee, $18.95, House of Anansi Press, 110 Spadina Avenue, Suite 801, Toronto, ON, M5V 2K4, anansi.ca

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