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Jake Kennedy Gets Wacky With Language

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The Lateral is a humbling reminder that poetry still rules.

Jake Kennedy, who was the recipient of the 2010 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, throws you into a labyrinth of language, seducing you into a strange world of contemporary theory.

The first section of the book, “Acker Cortege,” is an eight-page poem that dives into computer-related colloquialisms.

The poem explores Flickr’s database of “Acker” related imagery, and pays homage to artist/writer Kathy Acker, who passed away in 1997.

Kennedy highlights the innards of online image sharing. The content plays with appropriation and leads the reader to ponder the poetics of the Internet. Imagery, which is such a critical aspect to most writing, is explored in fresh, new ways, as Kennedy uses .img and .jpg-html codes to explore both the German and English languages. The poem pops with the employment of images such as “earthworm tribute,” “destination unknown purple haze cloudy cold,” and “road to cabbage farm morning drainage.”

The poem is completely appropriate, contemporary and will likely excite readers interested in the here and now of poetry.

The section that follows, “Thanks A Lot To Real People (My Poetics),” makes up the majority of the book. What stand out in this section are the titles of the prose poems, which are in and of themselves poetry, and include gems such as “If In The End/I.E., It’s All One Thing,” “Thank You, Then Part Of The Dark Sounds, Too,” and “Apple . Therefore Mountain . And Once More . Imaginary = Truth.” The titles don’t blatantly echo the poem’s content; however, they do set up a sort of playfulness that is integral to each poem.

The works demand a careful reading, and even then, you are left unsure of, yet fascinated by, what exactly Kennedy is trying to portray. The use of exclamation marks add ! a ! sort ! of ! punch ! to ! the ! words.

It’s a struggle to comprehend these poems, but eventually you can settle comfortably in the strange rhythms of Kennedy’s language. You have to let the words toss your mind across the landscape of Kennedy’s words and
wallow at the shore of comprehension.

Legendary writers (Cervantes, Kafka, Dickinson, Yeats, Eliot, Baudelair, the L=A=N=G=U=A= G=E poets) are mixed in with modern icons (Johnny Cash, Run DMC, Patti Smith, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Batman, I even caught a Fleet Foxes reference). “Thanks A Lot To Real People” is worthy of scholarly eyes and may, if I may channel my psychic abilities, play a major role in the study of contemporary poetry. These prose poems are no doubt a fresh poetic commentary on the function of language, poetry and art in 2010.

The final section, entitled “Notes To Myself (15 Briefs), opens with a quote by Henry James: “You’re an asshole.” This section is short and tickled with humour. It uses the phrase “fucking asshole” in every lament, taking on topics like talking on the phone while driving, thinking you’re a hero because you don’t have a Facebook account, shameless consumerism, the broken hearted and those trying to lose weight. Kennedy pokes fun at our mundane sense of confidence and pride.

The Lateral is a pristine work of contemporary literature, one you should take note of, study, and at least try to comprehend.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 13, published November 9, 2010.

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