Friday, November 24, 2017

Tusk-a-Loose'a - Mark Laba (Puddles of Sky Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Tusk-a-loose'a.  Mark Laba.  Puddles of Sky Press.  Kingston, Ontario.  2017.



I'd bury the hatchet with anyone

Whether it be in spruce maple pine

Or crime scene tape

On a TV show

Where a guy in a lakeside motel dies

While watching static on a TV screen

Thinking it was messages from

His dead wife

And the hatchet that I'm holding

Is the one that did

The trick.


It has finally happened.  

The first perfect poetry book.

Now, it's a short book, a chapbook in fact, but here is why I think Mark Laba's Tusk-a-Loose'a is perfect.

The front cover, perfect.  Simple, visually arresting, pure and twisted.

Inside.  Every single poem worked, pulled their weight.  Got the job done.  It was marvelous.  When I'm reading poetry for Today's book of poetry I usually write down page numbers of poems I particularly like and want to use for the blog but with Tusk-a-Loose'a I enjoyed the first poem, and then the second and then the third and then the fourth, and so on.  It was sweep, a perfect game, the opposite of a no-hitter but more rare.  

Today's book of poetry didn't have to write down a thing because every poem blasted past with the same high-tone velocity, we wanted to share every damned one.

Mark Laba has been around since we first discovered snow, but I've never met the man.  More's the pity.  Laba has endless wit, he knows exactly how close to the edge to take his reader - before pushing them over.


Asphalt opens

To the arteries of trees beneath

Scrabbing across shadow-strewn and rain-sodden streets

Where raccoons occasionally cross

To wash

The severed heads of their little squirrel victims

And encase them in plexiglass displays

They stole from the hobby shop.


It is hard to imagine doing more with any less.  Laba throws the reader around like a rag doll, not so much misdirection as vibrant lead step in a dance duo.  Mark Laba reads like Stephen Wright and Saint Nelson of Ball had a child with a young Raymond Souster, before the banks got him.  Laba is like that wisecracking kid at the back of the classrooms of our youth, the one that always had the right thing to say and was willing to say it at the wrong time.

Today's book of poetry had Milo, our head tech, check out the stacks to see what he could find from Mark Laba.  Our pickings were unfortunately slim with only Movies in the Insect Temple (Proper Tales Press, 1981) and The Thing In Exile which was co-authored with Steven Feldman and Stuart Ross (Books By Kids, 1975).  After reading Tusk-a-Loose'a Today's book of poetry will be on the hunt more of anything by Mark Laba.  It turns out he may be the best poet in Canada you've never heard of.


Lately I've thought about the narwhal tusk

As a navigation device for my mini-van

A way to breeze along through the bi-ways and highways

Of a nation I just invented that I call well I forget

What I called it

But you can bet your bottom dollar

It was one hell'uva nation

Before it sank into the ocean

Which wasn't my fault

As I was at the orthodontist

And my second-in-command

Was crushed under an avalanche

Of packing peanuts.


Mark Laba writes like a wise hipster Yoda.  "Good poems, you must."  This little chapbook punches way above its weight.

Our morning read was hillll-lair-eeeeeeeeee-ous.  These poems snapped around the room like the flick of a wet towel in a happy locker room.  The energy went around the room as though we had all had our fingers in the same poetry socket.

Today's book of poetry is here to tell you that Mark Laba is a poetry time bomb, and Tusk-a-Loose'a is one of those marvels that makes you happy to have it in your hands.


You can only Doppler your way

Out of so many situations like

Judging dog shows or liquefying things for future museums

But as the echo recedes

So does your memory

Until soon you're that old guy in the wheelchair at the beach

With a blanket over his legs

Yelling at the seagulls to stop crapping on his toupee.


Only flaw in Mark Laba's perfect Tusk-a-Loose'a is that we wanted more of it.

Image result for mark laba poet photo

Mark Laba

Mark Laba lives in Vancouver where he once talked his way into being a restaurant reviewer for a  Vancouver newspaper, but it ruined his appetite. He's been writing for a long time, although he takes breaks occasionally to indulge in his twin-passions for ventriloquism and cephalopod massage therapy. If you need to speak with him he's usually behind the cardboard baling machine in the Safeway shipping dock at 41st and Cambie on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am until 1pm. Otherwise he devotes his time to a discarded sofa-bed rescue centre.


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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