Saturday, April 2, 2016

check engine. rhinoceros. tungsten. - Michael e. Casteels (Puddles of Sky Press)

Today's book of poetry:
check engine. rhinoceros. tungsten.  Michael e. Casteels.  Puddles of Sky Press.  Kingston, Ontario.  2015.


Back on November 19, 2013 Today's book of poetry took a look at Michael e. Casteels chapbook The Robot Dreams.  You can see that here:

We liked it a lot.

check engine. rhinoceros. tungsten. is the second chapbook by Kingston area poet Michael e. Casteels that Today's book of poetry wants you readers to make time for.

Today's book of poetry would be lying if we were to say that we knew for certain exactly what Casteels is up to, precisely - but when you are having this much fun you don't question the driver.  As he did in The Robot Dreams - check engine. rhinoceros. tungsten. is packed with poems that intrigue and entertain and you can't ask more from a book of poems.

Everyone in the office had a different take on what it is that makes these poems work.  Milo, our head technician, believed it was Casteels' Dexterity Gordon act and his fondness for robots.  Kathryn, our new intern, felt that Casteels' warm heart surfaced in every poem, even those with robots that would walk us to the end of time.

The Robot Rides A Bus

While crossing the street, a robot is hit by a bus. Small parts
of the robot roll down a hill, frayed wires spark, lights flash.
The bus driver kneels beside the robot and cries, "If I had
been a surgeon, you might have been repaired. If I were a
priest you'd be blessed." The robot attempts to raise an arm
but there is only the grinding of gears, the leaking of oil.
The robot tries to speak but its voice is garbled and growing
faint. Its many lights flicker and dim as silence envelops the
scene. A robot lies in the street. A crowd is gathered. The
driver, still on his knees, cradles the robot's dented head.
The crowd closes in and hoists the robot to its shoulders. In
a short procession they enter the bus. The driver wipes his
eyes with a heavy sleeve, and follows. The door closes. The
bus starts, lurches into gear, and continues down the rolling
hills, towards a lake that is always in the distance.


Funnily enough there was a feature on CBC News, The National, last night and they posited whether or not artificial intelligence was about to surpass and take over the monkey/man period of domination.  Real Arnold/Terminator stuff.

In other parts of the world and in the poems of Michael e. Casteels sky divers land on trampolines after falling from the heavens and Jack London's ghost stubs his toe.

check engine. rhinoceros. tungsten. reads like a pillow book of short dreams that is inhabited with Casteels quick wit and an alacrity for juxtapositions that could only come from a devotee of the great Stuart Ross.  

Life In The Afterlife

It's not all that different:
The sun shines, clouds
get in the way, rain falls.
Wind is still invisible.
I live in an apartment
that is never clean,
commute to work, complain
about taxes and heating bills.
I set my alarm clock.
I sleep. I dream.
I dream that I am alive.
I wake up and wipe
the sweat from my brow.


check engine. rhinoceros. tungsten. is but one of a baker's dozen of chapbooks published by Casteels and his Kingston small press Puddles of Sky.  Today's book of poetry wants to see a publisher of reason get Casteels between the covers.  You shouldn't have to believe me to know how good these poems really are.

Totally Compulsive Behaviour

I'd bitten my fingernails
right down to the skin,
so I chewed off each fingers
and gnawed away the palm of my hand.
Then I devoured both forearms.
I couldn't reach my elbows,
so I flexed my body backwards
and pointed my toes.
I'll admit it was snakelike,
the way my jaw unhinged,
the way my feet entered my gullet
and I worked my way upward,
swallowing my knees, then my torso.
When I felt my teeth gripping
the back of my skull
I knew I'd gone too far.
My mouth was full of my own hair
and then my entire head.
I peeked out from behind my teeth
as I closed my mouth
like a single, giant, eyelid.


I got Salvador Dali/Francisco De Goya chills when I read "Totally Compulsive Behaviour", even more when I typed the sucker out.

The gentle humour Casteels employs both enhances and disguises the subversive nature of check engine. rhinoceros. tungsten.  

Casteels more than adequately sums up his own clever devices in his poem "Remember A Bird" when he says:

                         "the dog is staring. Can you hear it?
It's like silence or that other thing, when tomorrow
inexplicably shifts today into yesterday, the sound
your shadow makes walking the dog's shadow."

Michael e. Casteels

Michael e. Casteels has self-published over a dozen chapbooks of poetry and artwork. He has work forthcoming in Arc Poetry Magazine, and Filling Station. In 2012 he was nominated for the emerging artist award in The Premier's Awards for Excellence in the Arts. He lives in Kingston, Ontario where he run Puddles of Sky Press.

Michael e. Casteels
reads a Soduko poem
April 1, 2014
at TEXTual ARTivity
Video: Kelly Keeler



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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