Sunday, July 7, 2013

Four Hundred Rabbits - Steven Artelle

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.

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