Today's book of poetry: Four Hundred Rabbits. Steven Artelle. Angel House Press. Ottawa, Ontario. 2013. Edition of 50.
Steven Artelle's book Four Hundred Rabbits is made up of one longish poem, it runs to 18 pages. The entire poem is about the history and the future of rabbits. Those who delighted in Watership Down or who enjoyed Peter Rabbit, this isn't your mother's rabbit.
when he heard the story of the tortoise and the hare
one rabbit arrogantly demanded a rematch
winning both that race and the ensuing tie-breaker
he proclaimed the true moral: don't be ridiculous
There are ruminations on what it means to be rabbit, or perhaps human. Very amusing and witty, these numbered rabbits parallel the lives of those and those like us, people we know, people we know when we look in the mirror. This poem contains narrative snippets from movies you have and haven't seen, but they are laid out in Rabbit reality.
In Warren Township, one rabbit broke her bedsore heart
and tried forever to make excuses in the room
where the dust like a bride's veil settled and settled again
imagine an electric guitar dropped down the stairs
for one rabbit, sex was that good every single time
one rabbit was conscious of his endless obsessing
but there was nothing he could do to suppress his thoughts
the constant worst-case-scenario speculation
the invented confrontations and crazed rationales
the forensic dissection of motives and meaning
until the twitch of paranoia interrupted
every. wait. why did she. and remember. what if
one rabbit smashes safety glass everywhere she goes
the astronomer of vandalized constellations
What Artelle does here, and seemingly without effort, is to keep the reader's attention.
Had I been asked, the odds of liking a long poem about 400 rabbits would be relatively small. 400 rabbits small.
But Steven Artelle's clever little book Four Hundred Rabbits continues the fine work Ottawa poet and publisher Amanda Earl has been doing with her Angel House Press.
This chapbook, Artelle's first, is better than pulling a rabbit out of a hat.