Thursday, September 23, 2004

Smack Down

some things are just plain fascinating, and other things are just crazy. the world of professional wrestling is both to Toronto poet Michael Holmes whose latest book Parts Unknown: Wrestling, Gimmicks and Other Works (Insomniac Press 2004) is an intense ode to the players, and those who are played upon, written in short poem-bursts of visceral music.

all the key players, Jake the Snake Roberts and Rowdy Roddy Piper for example, are here in all swagger and sweat. There is a poem about Piper that takes its title from a horror flick the wrestler starred in, They Live. it begins, [t]he hateful things he's done in a kilt / accrue. Piper's wrestling gimmick, his persona, was the crazed Scotsman and he always wore a kilt. Piper's instrument was, yeah you guessed it, the bagpipes.

and so the poems do accrue and build toward the coda Finishing Moves, a sequence of poems using the argot for wrestling moves that those in the business, and their huge fan base, use. wrestling is black light theater and this sequence is a tour de force of images and double-meanings. take this section.

vi. Low Blows

Shattered Dreams

* * *

the poems move on and on and if you feel you're about to pass out from so much info on pro wrestling Holmes provides a six page glossary to answer those questions you were always afraid to ask. what is a Blade and how is it used by the pros, you ask? here is Holmes definition.

When a wrestler takes a small piece of razor blade, usually secured to tape on his finger, hand or wrist, and runs it along his skin to produce "controlled" bleeding.

* * *

Holmes has the chops, his poems are muscular mini-movies. here is Section 5 from another sequence called Bell Suite.

Because its fake it's not real--
tell me again because I'm too dumb
to understand, too unreal to rail
against what numbed
one town into this town
derailed my train of--
it's not easy to own
up to this thoughtlessness, my love
the one apology I still need to make
(it's real because it's not fake)

* * *

the power of art, however we wish to define art, is its artifice. for somehow, when we act (activate) our imaginations we exist in the state of becoming. art makes for actions from its pretending, and these actions become us, and that "us" is constantly being defined over and again, always striving with horror and pleasure. Holmes's fascination for pro wrestling makes for some very good poetry. the poet uses the persona of a rabid fan to write on the personas used by those in this wild business. for Holmes the poems move with humor and grace because we all pretend to be authentic. for reals.