Shane Rhodes and I know each other, although not very well, and we are friendly although it would be presumptuous to say we are friends. We were once both nominees for a local literary prize and I'm pretty sure he won, I know I didn't. All of that just to be clear before I start in on X - Poems and Anti-Poems.
The great Chilean poet Nicanor Parra wrote from a social myth shattering soul when he produced his Poemas Y Anti Poemas. The following link explains Parra's poetics much better than I ever could:
Shane Rhodes has done Parra proud and has produced the most important book of poetry in years. This brilliant, brilliant book is incendiary. A poetic indictment to make the most political South American poet proud, a poetic achievement that demands to be noticed. It is also a challenge to read.
Text can come from several directions and in several fonts. But not to worry as the reader is transfixed almost immediately as Rhodes writes: "this book of verse demands more of verse, this book demands perversity." Rhodes really is ready to burn it all down. There is nothing comfortable about X - Poems & Anti-Poems.
Rhodes makes poetry out of madness by re-purposing the text of the eleven numbered treaties with Canada's First Nations. Rhodes has done incredible home work and re-purposes all sorts of found texts with astounding results.
Most of the book is made up of pages that defy description as the text is fractured, illustrations abound, text appears transcribed over other text in other fonts and sizes. Again, madness, but Shane Rhodes is a Shaman of sorts in these pages. Oh, yes, the book must be read in two directions, from front to back and from back to front, sometimes you have to turn it upside down. Yet in the end it is a cohesive and startling statement.
Let me be clear, I think Shane Rhodes' X - Poems & Anti-Poems is the most important book of poetry I have seen in years. Sid Stephen wrote Beothuck Poems in 1976, Nicanor Parra published Poemas Y Anti Poemas (Poems & Anti-Poems) in 1966. Both of those books are high-water marks in my poetic understanding of the world. Shane Rhodes is in deep with the very best of them.