Monday, January 23, 2017

Conditionals - Peter Gibbon (bird,buried | press)

Today's book of poetry:
Conditionals.  Pete Gibbon.  bird, buried | press.  Peterborough, Ontario.  2016.


Conditionals really only suffers from one minor flaw - it is not long enough.  Today's book of poetry was up for more of this smart stuff.  Today's book of poetry felt strangely at home in Pete Gibbon world even though I've never been to Korea or Australia.  We liked every poem in this too short collection from bird, buried | press.

Gibbon runs us through his adventures working and travelling abroad, laments relationships and pines for his next sip.  The important thing is that these narrative and somewhat confessional poems work. You feel an easy connection to these poems, Gibbon allows for easy access.

Crust Of Wanderlust

Sunglasses were invented for years like these.
Trying to be Aussie, walk to beach barefoot;
by the end, a bloody heel.

In New South Wales most ideas for poems are nightmares. Travel stories make
terrible poetry; expats, terrible love.

As a stagehand I learn shoptalk, but never use it.
Packing trucks American is half-full.
No that Yanks are lazy, but semis, like anything else in Australia, are larger.

After New South Wales, I wash the sunlight off my feet. When you pack road cases
wheels-to-god they mean bottoms up.

Salt water, sunscreen. Never feeling clean. Making sure your knapsack is shut.

What makes me miss my friends the most: sitting on a patio, drinking beer.
And they, back home, doing the same.


Pete Gibbon is closely associated with a small cadre of young poets that at one time all resided in Ottawa.  They've scattered but the group included Justin Million, Jeff Blackman, Cameron Anstee, Bardia Sinaee & Ben Ladouceur among others.  Today's book of poetry is convinced that future conversations about poetry in Canada will include a number of these names.

And of this group Gibbon may be the most easily accessible.  His poems are unadorned and entertaining, non-sequined but rock solid.


The young women are closing curtains.
Senior couples utter nonsense.

Ajoshis are sore balls
smoking cigarettes
long & thin.

Six foot tall folk statues of penises with penises
for arms, penis arms with penises... all these penises
guard old Seoul.

Statistics disclose 41 Koreans kills themselves
every day. Parents mourn
their country's dwindling birth rate.

Vagabondage (n): Wanderlust's tired
crippled cousin.

Maybe I've become complacent
or my shoes have almost worn out.

Codes lapse
in the time it takes to replace buildings
or print maps.

Maybe things are changing in Korea
but I've only lived in Seoul.


Our morning reading included readings from Pete Gibbon's dandy little Apt. 9 Press chapbook Eating Thistles (2010).  Milo, our head tech, has been going to the stacks and bringing back whatever he can find on the poet of the day.  So this morning when Milo came into the office with Gibbon's earlier work Today's book of poetry was tickled.  There is nothing as helpful as perspective.

Today's book of poetry is convinced these two chapbooks are warning shots across the bow of bigger things to come.  

Today's book of poetry also wanted to comment briefly about bird, buried | press, in good old Peterborough.  Today's book of poetry grew up in Peterborough, mostly, and has never seen a Peterborough chapbook that looked quite this good.  If this is the standard bird, buried | press intends to maintain it means Peterborough finally has a small press of distinction.  


if I am aged a full 30 years
               why do I get sad on days off & cry watching The Avengers

if a sci-fi actor watches their own movies
               why don't they go mad from the dreams

if my parents are hiding grant rejections from us when we visit
               are they leaving drafts of their wedding speech around, including an acrostic
               of your name

if I refer to you as my forever-person
               am I being politically correct
               or am I pretty sure we'll be together my whole life

did I use "pretty sure"
               because I'm scared to death
               or I know life is mutable

if I swallowed vinegar
               would I be clean inside & never drink again

if we have the same rash
               can I scratch yours & be satisfied?


Today's book of poetry is convinced that Gibbon has a big book or two in his future. Conditionals should confirm that for anyone lucky enough to get their hands on a copy.

Image result for photo pete gibbon poet
Pete Gibbon
(with Dingo)

Pete Gibbon is a Canadian poet. His last chapbook, Eating Thistles was published by Apt. 9 Press (Ottawa) 1n 2010.  Since 2010, he has lived in South Korea, Australia and Toronto. He is also the author of an ongoing limited series of graphic fiction about the life of Canadian author Marian Engel with friend/poet/illustrator Tanya Decarie.



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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