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the tapeworm foundry, or the dangerous prevalence of imagination

by Darren Wershler-Henry

This second work of poetry from Darren Wershler-Henry – Internet guidebook author, online press editor, electronic copyright advocate, and full-time polymath – is less a long poem than a satire on the poetic process. The text occupies 49 pages, or precisely 830 unpunctuated lines, riffing on the challenge “so you want to write a poem” in a style best described as a cross between a treatise on poetics and a Unabomber manifesto. The result is a manic and frequently hilarious series of directives separated by “andor,” that range from the Ginsbergian – “drift aimlessly through the streets of the city for days” – to the Seinfeldian – “make famous poems more efficient by abstracting them into commercial catchphrases so that for paradise lost by milton you might say ive fallen and i can’t get up.”

Aside from its value as a complete guide for procrastinators, the tapeworm foundry succeeds admirably because it resonates widely. In its modern way the poem is endless (the final phrase loops to the beginning), without pause, and ridden with anxiety. It’s a bit like spending several hours watching someone channel surf: the book captures a restless consciousness that seeks the next fragment of synaptic entertainment as an addict craves a hit from a crack pipe.

Wershler-Henry is poised to establish himself as one of Canada’s great poetic innovators. His first poetry collection, NICHOLODEON: a book of lowerglyphs, occupies a turning point in Canadian publishing, since it was accepted by Coach House Press on the eve of the publisher’s demise, and was later reborn as a fully online text for the resurrected, web-based Coach House Books. But while his intellectual range is astounding, his emotional range is not. Both works emphasize cerebral pyrotechnics over nuanced expression, which can hinder the reader’s engagement with, sympathy for, and sense of participation in the work. If he wants a new challenge, Wershler-Henry could try introducing in his next book a little more love and pain (and the whole damn thing).