Imaginary Maps. Darrell Epp. Signature Editions. Winnipeg, Manitoba. 2009.
the disease of consciousness
and all that it requires:
nurses telling me to relax,
musty four-colour newsprint,
and promises kept,
books packed with lies,
memories of redwoods,
mistakes on auto-repeat, your
woefully underwritten third act,
my unquenchable hatred
for whoever ruins a mystery
by solving it,
that first kiss and
the downhill slide,
laws that bind us,
twin sisters named
hope and rage, vagrants
i mistake for vampires,
all of it and
terrible whiteness of
the empty screen, a
burden too heavy
too put down.
Well, Today's book of poetry should have known, what we mean to say is that we are not surprised that Darrell Epp started out like this. Imaginary Maps predates our previous outing with the venerable Mr. Epp. Today's book of poetry lavished praise of Epp's After Hours (Mosaic, 2016) and you can read that blog/review here:
"Mission Statement" kicks off Epp's Imaginary Maps as a kick-ass-start-as-you-mean-to-go-on and he doesn't really let his foot off of the gas.
Along the way he throws in an almost perfect love poem like "For Jane" and you forget his fierce mantle for a moment, the hard demeanour, and remember that Epp writes poems that will make you stutter-step. He has the kind of clarity that will stop you in your tracks. These poems are laced with lines of almost perfect clarity and simplicity.
i step out of the ford f-150
to admire the lunar eclipse.
it's a scary shade of red. i'll
see another one when i'm
old but i'll never see jane
again, there's a hole in my
pocket. i lost two dimes today.
when i go home after work no
one will be there to ask me for
anything. the moon is pulling
away from us, three inches a year,
because of tides and gravity, that's
a fact, jane told me all about it.
What Today's book of poetry really admires about Darrell Epp and Imaginary Maps is that Epp already has his voice - and it's clever, clear, wisely tapered. Epp will say the thing but he won't drag it out. Sometimes it's disguised as an observation, an almost throw-away aside but Epp is worth paying close attention to.
It helps that these stories ring true, experience won. Epp isn't making up plot lines, he's relating pertinent events to provide the platform for his deeply humanist agenda. Epp has a great dark sense of humour that helps keep his genuine urge towards rage in check. There is always that yin/yang swing to the pull of violence and the fighting urge to do the right thing and Epps love to play with the tension.
off-screen, a match is lit.
your shaky hand spills coffee.
"i don't think you can truly understand
dostoyevsky until you've had your heart
broken and set on fire, then everything
becomes as simple as checker--"
look i really hate to interrupt, you
being suicidal and all,
but what is it with this place?
isn't our waitress the girl
king kong fell in love with?
isn't the bartender the pie-in-the-face man
in all those classic comedies?
doesn't the owner look like the fat man
from the maltese falcon?
and aren't you dietrichson, the luckless
husband from double indemnity,
directed by billy wilder,
Our morning read was a little earlier than usual as Today's book of poetry had some out of office commitments to attend to. Epps helped keep the pace up as we toured Imaginary Maps. This is a first book that shows no signs of being a first book, these poems read/shout experience.
Milo, our head tech, said they reminded him of the great Dave Etter's poems in that they have ample evidence of the same reasoned simplicity. Surprisingly enough everyone in the room agreed. Imaginary Maps will provide all the direction you need.
3 or 4 years ago my entire
life fit inside a ziploc bag.
i've started cycling and writing again,
and my life is too big to be contained
inside any container i've ever seen.
and the universe, which weighs more
that i can guess, fits quite comfortably
inside my brains, which only weighs
3 lbs.--it's a miracle!
you're inside here, too.
Today's book of poetry knows Imaginary Maps is an older, first book, but we are convinced Darrell Epp came out fully formed.
Today's book of poetry loved Epp's After Hours as well. This older, first book only confirms the deal and we can't wait to see what Mr. Epp gets up to next.
ABOUT THE AUTHORDarrell Epp’s poetry has appeared in dozens of magazines around the world including Maisonneuve, Poetry Ireland, Sub-Terrain, and The Saranac Review.
Darrell Epp's poetry is just bursting with artistry, but you only notice the magic, never the technique behind it. These are, quite simply, marvelous poems -- poetry that's actually fun to read. Open up the book, read a few pages. You'll see for yourself... And if you ever get caught in the subway between stations, try to sit beside a guy like the guy who wrote these poems.
- David Gilmour, author of The Film Club
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