¶ Jake Kennedy’s virtuosic fifteen poem sequence, anchored in Masaki Kobayashi’s obliterating film Harakari (1962), is a series of turbulent and meditative riffs on the self and its dissolution; on fear, sickness, emptiness; on the “sweet fuckery of the mortal body” that—like all good poetry—resists the critic’s feeble paraphrase. Think of John Coltrane’s The Love Supreme or Charles Mingus’ Black Saint and the Sinner Lady or Alban Berg’s Op. 1 sonata for analogues to Kennedy’s restless and torqued but deeply coherent stanzas. Hence one awesome element of these poems: the philosophical desire enacted in them never gives way to that sense of finish or completion which tends to quarantine a poem and set it apart for a reader’s admiration; instead this poetry clobbers us with its brackish torrent of images, questions, modalities, shifts in “high / low” diction, metaphors—the full tool kit of the poet’s craft, really—which rush over one another, each its own surprise, and retain that marvelous immediacy of their creation.
¶ And yet, if these poems sharpen their intelligence against the edge of sense, they never abandon the centres of thematic and formal gravity—the latter in the propulsion of the nearly Shakespearean iambic variations of the lines (it’s almost impossible to read these poems silently), and the former in the speaker’s ghostly vision of Hanshiro, the grief and poverty stricken samurai, who arrives at the hypocritical and unjust court of a clan lord with a request for the ritual of harakiri, wherein “the body open itself with itself.” Hanshiro, however, remains a ghost, a presiding spirit in Kennedy’s sequence, often receding into the shade; in his place is a rucksack’s worth of films and paintings and pop-cultural paraphernalia—a “rattle-bag of detritus”—summoned because, well, who knows? Kennedy displays a markedly generous aesthetic: nothing seems excluded, and anything is a candidate for illumination. “Sometimes I imagine other objects—still just as / radiant—rising in place of the sun: for example there is a / mini-van […], there is a flower-pot […], there is a Samsung microwave, and there is a corpse, of course.” Yes, that corpse. Hence the seriousness of this work where, in the end, and in submission, Hanshiro “surrenders to the condemned as the / condemned.”
¶ A passionate and exacting meditation on the quest for spiritual emptiness and the beauty of integrity in a time of moral destitution. There is deep grief in this work pointing to joy in transcendent measure.
Jake Kennedy was born in the tobacco-land of Woodstock, Ontario and grew up in the big-box-land of Mississauga, Ontario. His BookThug chapbook entitled Hazard won the 2006 bpnichol Chapbook Award. Jake also helped edit, with his artist friend Paola Poletto, Boredom Fighters: A Graphic Poem Anthology (Tightrope Books) in 2008. Most recently, Jake received the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry for The Lateral, forthcoming from Snare Books.
6.5" × 11", 28pp. 2015
Hand-set in Monotype Deepdene, cast 16/18 on the late, great Jim Rimmer's Super Caster, from seriously cranky matrices [ on kind loan from Jerry Kelly ], during the sweltering early months of summer 2015 here at the Greenboathouse Press.
Printed into 7 shades of Zerkall Ingres, and with an unfortunate little mouse engraved into wood by Wesley Bates, based on a drawing by Christopher Hoy. The binding, in quarter goat with matching tips, was designed by Jason Dewinetz and executed by Alanna Simenson. The edition is 35, with a handful of sets in sheets for private distribution. All signed by the author.