Knife Fork Book, 2020
This year’s crop of Knife Fork Book releases are elegantly produced, as usual, and their white covers with bold orange print make them easy to spot on bookshop and library shelves. Andy Verboom’s DBL is one of them. It’s small—a chapbook with thirteen poems—but it carries its substance with poetic presence. Verboom’s are poems that are rich in imagery and quick in turns of phrase, pieces that are sensory explorations of what wordplay is all about. His work feels playful, quick witted, hopeful, and raw at the same time.
Here is a poet who loves to work within the structures of poetic form. In this case, it’s the sonnet, but it’s a ‘double-headed sonnet’ that is echoed in the titles of two poems, “Fall of the Double-Headed Dildo,” which opens the collection, and “Rise of the Double-Headed Dildo,” which finds its place later in the chapbook. This sharp focus on form is mirrored in the title of the collection itself, and in its careful structuring and architecture. As he writes in “Restoration of the Royal Line,” “The genre bends.” Using the historic foundation of the Shakespearean sonnet as a starting place—and exploring within a set poetic form—is part of what DBL does so beautifully and meticulously.
Travel plays a role in Verboom’s DBL, in the way it can encourage a person to journey inside and outside of self at the same time. In traveling, you are mindful of your experiences as they happen, while sometimes—in daily life—you might be more apt to move through things in a more routine and mundane way. Travel allows us to be aware of minute details in ways we maybe wouldn’t otherwise fully see or experience them. In “Paddywagon Tours,” Verboom conjures up the essence of a memory that is captured in cinematic tones: “In Galway by supper, we liquefy/across a bar because, if all’s the same/at last, we rather stiff charisma/suckle us into the necromantic.” You can imagine, as a reader, being there in that pub, marinating in the atmosphere of it. In “Hitchhiking the Coromandel,” the essence of a New Zealand adventure creeps into the poem when the poet writes, “I wear humidity, the road’s fir collar.” The sensuality of that first line smartly pulls you right smack dab into the centre of the poem.
Really, some of the images and phrases in Andy Verboom’s DBL will sort of make you catch your breath if you read the poems out loud to yourself. There’s “a tealeaf given to the lukewarm bigness,” and dusk is “a bear trap baited with a climax,” and then there’s the “ozone-braided hair” that is “gyroscoping/with fantasy.” Too, in the final poem, “Holiday Memory Bank,” there’s a riot of imagery and wordplay that dazzles. Here, a boardwalk “builds over an ancient xylophone,” a foetus loiters in an “ultrasound vestibule,” coffee “impregnates a map” where “things vanish,” and “Pointillist sun-madness” is “squatting in eyelids.” This is the sort of thing you really need to read out loud, to fully appreciate the careful and meticulous rush of it all. As a keen fan of poetry, I’ll looking forward with anticipation and curiosity as to what Verboom does next with his poetry.
lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. She was poet laureate in Sudbury from 2016-18, and was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim's latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She's a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Writers' Union of Canada, and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Kim blogs fairly regularly at kimfahner.wordpress.com and can be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com