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Papercut Heart: A Book of Zines

by Ian Sullivan Cant

Papercut Heart is a short volume containing nine poems, all of them charmingly illustrated by the author. Most of the text is handwritten, and the result is a pleasant little collection that tackles the usual themes – love, language, loss – and does so with a sense of humour, a personal touch, and a little bit of weirdness. (Both Frankenstein and Dracula make appearances, and one poem is written entirely in Morse code.)

The first selection, “… And So This Is How It All Ends,” is the only piece that is actually typeset, and thus reads more like a conventionally structured poem than the rest. Cant pairs the piece with illustrations that may at first seem unrelated to each other or to the text – a darkened fire escape, a viaduct, sleeping pills, a teapot on the stove – but the relevance of these images lies in their nature as snapshots from everyday life.

Like his drawings, Cant’s language is precise and often embodies unusual perspectives. He writes lyrically yet conversationally: “bird calls in the alley. traffic in the road. and it’s all the same all the same.”

“Why Another Soul-Troubled Story” is a rumination on sadness. The piece pokes some fun at the clichés of a tortured poem, while still managing to evoke a little of the anguish it disdains. “Are you attracted to picking fuck-ups off the shelf, or are they all the shelf offers?” is a line from a page with the heading “A local psychologist asks a poignant question.” 

Papercut Heart is not likely to turn a reluctant reader into a fan of illustrated poetry, nor does it break from convention in any unprecedented way. But it is a peek into the mind of a likable young artist, which is always an interesting place to visit.