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Crabwise to the Hounds

by Jeramy Dodds

Despite my abiding conviction that a moratorium should be placed on poems about Glenn Gould (whose frequent appearance in Canadian poetry has made him into something of a verse cliché), I feel bound to admit that Jeramy Dodds imbues the clutch of Gould poems in his first collection with the same idiosyncratic brilliance that the famed concert pianist injected into his own art.

One of these pieces, “The Easiest Way to Empty a Seashell Is to Place It on an Anthill,” includes four pages’ worth of inventive, evocative metaphors to describe Gould’s hands in action. “His right,” Dodds states, “walks like a woman/ entering a dry stone hut knuckled on a hill,/ her wounded revolutionary lying inside.” By contrast, “His left stops in its tracks and shivers,/ having found a corpse in the hedge.”

But poems about Glenn Gould account for only a small fraction of this book. The rest of Crabwise to the Hounds is a surreal menagerie, the wild and garish exhibition of a carnival or circus ring. Animals of various descriptions populate this work, sometimes as totemic symbols, sometimes as figures of fun: “Bunnicula sits fanged/ in a chicken-wire cage.”

With his heavily accented, assonant lines, Dodds could belong to what critic Patrick Warner affectionately dubbed “the School of Stacked Vowels and Clustered Consonants”: “I’m on the pier with my back against/ the wrecking machine,” Dodds writes in “Prosthetics,” “Cyclones of terns/ turn atop prop-churned debris.”

This playful, percussive musicality is also reminiscent, at times, of Christian Bök’s Eunoia. Both authors share an unabashed delight in rhythm making, in tricks of sonic wizardry. They share one other thing as well: an animal energy that is difficult to ignore. Dodds’ is a poetry of feral muscularity.