Tiny, Frantic, Stronger. Jeff Latosik. Insomniac Press. London, Ontario. 2010.
Winner: 2007 P.K. Page Founders' Award
Winner: 2008 Great Canadian Literary Hunt
Winner: 2011 Trillium Award
Today's book of poetry has been the humble recipient of many, many volumes of poetry since we opened our door. Most of our books, almost all, come from publishers. And bless their cotton socks, each and every one of them. Today's book of poetry is always on the hunt for new (to us) poetry titles. Next week we are meeting up with an American friend who is bringing us three boxes of new poetry from Vermont. Recently, in Montreal, Today's book of poetry stopped at our favourite bookstore, The Word, near McGill, and picked up five or six poetry titles. A new (to us) Sharon Olds. That could read "Her Supreme Poetryness Sharon Olds". A first edition A.M. Klein, Hitleriad, and another David Mamet poetry title. Sometimes individuals, poets, send us their books and on occasion there are a number of poetry friends who have been kind enough to leave piles of poetry on our step. Today's Jeff Latosik came to us in just such a fashion.
One morning, not too long ago, our side door step was pyramided with poetry, a gift from an old friend. There was a small herd of Charles Tomlinson, a fabulous book by K.I. Press called Pale Red Footprints. It didn't stop there, but low and behold, in walked Jeff Latosik and kicked me in the knee. Not a bad kick, but an "I'm here, let's get started" kick. Latosik damn near knocked us off of our poetry feet.
Jeff Latosik is, apparently, some kind of poetry monster. He is a brilliant Dr. Frankenstein and Tiny, Frantic, Stronger is his beautiful monster, built to run roughshod on our little poetry village. THIS is a book that Today's book of poetry wants you to track down. Tiny, Frantic, Stronger is exactly the type of book Today's book of poetry was started for.
Eight Kinds of Knots
A streetcar stalled on Howard Park
and Roncesvalles Ave. Passengers cleared,
they fume in sunlight, waiting for a newer version
of the part that held their afternoon together.
It's heading towards them at half the speed
of a newly launched home run in the park,
and the crowd can make a dome of their cheering.
Close by, a first-grade field trip watches,
teachers blossoming consent forms. Lined up
crooked, two by two, these kids are living long division.
Arguing over who will be an astronaut first, one flips a coin,
another waits, while the traffic starts backing up,
the banks get full and a man walks around with a hammer
unsure of what to do with it. In his pocket he motions
another figure eight: that's a hard one to pull apart,
but he does. The rolling hitch—slip the frayed end under the slack,
tighten, slack, tighten, slack,
until the Scotch tape on our LOST CAT sign peels
back, until a glass bottle falls from a ledge, it gets dark,
and every lit up window is a difficult board game.
Later, a raccoon scattering newspaper
over the road, the headlights that scare him under a deck,
the fold-out chairs that won't fold back.
If you listen you can hear someone talking about the last time
she climbed a fence and in how many places her wrist broke.
And the planes seem closer, the stars, countable.
Today's book of poetry's copy of Tiny, Frantic, Stronger came to us in near-perfect condition. Not so much now. You may have noticed a wee break in our scheduled programing. Today's book of poetry has been sidetracked with other business for a bit. During that time we were carrying old Latosik around with us. We spilled water on Tiny, we spilled wine on Frantic, and Stronger got push pulled into folded pages somewhere in the luggage between Peterborough and Montreal.
It doesn't matter a bean. Today's book of poetry is back in the saddle, sorry for the break, we missed you all.
Latosik clearly has a good grasp of the big picture, as you are reading Tiny, Frantic, Stronger your confidence grows with every page. You become willing to follow Latosik wherever his amusement takes him. And, Latosik can be as hilarious as he wants as he slides in there dark and ominous. Today's book of poetry likes a little tension in our humour.
An Unauthorized Account of the Downtime of the Lovely Couple
Night pushed their windows closer.
They slouched more. It felt good to give up posture.
They sat for hours, immersed in a game
that involved a series of miniature doors.
The problem was figuring out who was winning
or when the game might come to an end.
I imagined my life differently, she said.
No matter, he said, when I drink
I am the tallest man in Toronto.
There was the ritual of high-fiving
until something delicate fell from a table.
There was inhaling the price tags from beautiful clothes.
You have too many tiny apartments, she said.
And he sat on the chair he'd made for her
from balsa wood, remembered how it all came
in dusty panels with uneven edges,
how he'd told her that was the measure of awe,
cutting panels from larger panels
as if somewhere at the start of it
there was something huge and complete.
After our long break there were some poetry hounds around the office this morning chomping at the bit for a howling, a reading, and Tiny, Frantic, Stronger was the tonic needed to get every engine running. Our morning read was a delight, the enthusiasm around the room was contagious. This eight year-old book is as good as we have seen in a while, and it was new to us.
Latosik connects you to his work by taking you with him as he hop-scotches his way through these intimate moments, these carnival laughs. These poems will remind you why you like poetry. Tiny, Frantic, Stronger is a stunner.
On Appreciating Space Exploration
Press your hands against the ceiling.
Notice how hot they become there on the border
of home and a sky that rolls like water
pushing its way through a hairline crack.
Step down slowly. Break a window.
Or, unravel a roll of film
then try to stuff it all back in the roll. Develop.
Spend a moment pondering this statement:
that the road should be built in this direction
or that direction is an equally preposterous notion.
Marry young. Acquire an appreciation of orbit
by making the same mistake over again
until it feels new, like an old shirt whose sleeves you roll up.
Try to wear that shirt around your legs. Try to fit
your arms around a full-grown oak.
Throw a fistful of marbles across a field.
Try to get inside a shoebox.
Fall off something.
During our brief hiatus Today's book of poetry had an opportunity to mull over the whole thing, poetry, the world, our place in it. Books like Tiny, Frantic, Stronger help so much. Books like these pull you out of your own little world, even if it is for the briefest of moments. Thank you Jeff Latosik. It was a bit like discovering Fred Neil, who knew that was out there?
Today's book of poetry wants to take this opportunity for a few shout-outs. Christopher McPherson, Stuart Ross, David Clewell, Ward Maxwell, Dag Straumsvag, David Whyte, Pearl Pirie, Alexander Monker, Alexander Michaud, Pistol, Otis and of course the ever sweet K. Today's book of poetry would also like to send a shout out to Rob McLennan, ever industrious and generous.
Over and out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Jeff Latosik’s third book of poetry, Dreampad, will be released in 2018 from McClelland & Stewart. He lives in Toronto.
Jeff Latosik's Tiny, Frantic, Stronger is infested with cockroaches, silverfish, with and sharp turns. Watch where you're going: some of his line broaden into fields; others are trap doors.
—Sarah Lindsay, author of Mount Clutter and Twigs & Knucklebones
These poems are chock-full of playful, irreverent humour, but beneath that humour is an insistent search for understanding. As strange and delightfully surprising as these poems often are, they are also intimate and vulnerable — a rare achievement in a debut collection. Jeff Latosik's is a fresh new voice.
—Adam Sol, author of Crowd of Sounds and Jeremiah, Ohio
Tiny, Frantic, Stronger
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