Snare Books - August 02, 2006 - 0 Comments
Canada Post by Jason Christie
Reviewed by derek beaulieu
With Canada Post, Jason Christie troubles the nation as lyric poem, and the poem as lyric nation; the “tremors between capital and periods” (“Ataxis and thrum or the internet avenger” 34).
Jason Christie moved to Calgary in 2001 to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Calgary, and has been actively involved in the Calgarian poetic community, usually through very small, intimate actions. His yarDPress published sporadic poetic items, and his yard reading series took place in backyards, living rooms, and other home-spaces.
These small, intimate poetic gestures worked outside the larger community-driven defining features of literary community, cleaving a space to discuss work outside of grand narratives. Much like those gestures, Canada Post realizes that “our hands, when they finally touch, invent the rest of the alphabet” (“La Guerre, C’est Moi!” 31).
Throughout Canada Post, Christie returns to the issue of unity — both the national myth, and its poetic cousin, the unified, humanist subject: that looming lyrical, capital “I.” By carefully avoiding the lyric conceit of completed-ness, Canada Post becomes an interrogation of how we define. Here, the nation-state, like the mind-state, becomes a place of flux and fragmentation.
The traditional, mythic idea of Canada as a rugged, untamed nation of pioneers and explorers slowly disassembles. “This is simply pastoral,” but what is “this”? — the nation, our definitions and mindset; and the poem itself. Poetry is ultimately a pastoral exercise: we move our words, like sheep, across the page (“Deere John” 37).
Canada Post — which is Jason Christie’s first book of poetry and the first book published by Montréal’s Snare books — doesn’t buy the nationalistic legend, and instead asks that the reader, the you, “build me a nation less like a pine tree but more neon.” The nation and the individual blur into a single, insufficient myth-container: “Make it rain. Let me, I said, be defined as a container, a lake. […] A nation guards against loneliness. A nation excludes you, it is a container, a lake, a geography” (“Language as a Vernal Confier Séance” 17).
Throughout Canada Post, Christie uses the indicators of nationhood to interrogate interpersonal relationships. Nations are simultaneously created and uncreated through conversation: “When you said it rained, did you mean like Queen Victoria and I just heard the typo?” (“Deere John” 37).
Christie manipulates the poetic address (the speaking “I” addressing an implicit “you”) to make the reader aware of her own inherent support of those nation-building narratives: “Oh, are you now in the plot?” (“Swerve (Gentle Grade)” 73). The quotidian language of the day-to-day — the way that Christie interrupts more politically charged poems with a personal address — serves to underscore how consumerism equates understanding: “I’m at home in a First world kind of way tonight if you’d like to bring over some DVDs and cheap Italian wine” (“Deere John” 37).
A soft nostalgia imbues Canada Post, but nostalgia is mythos — it is the yearning for the impossible, and never-realized “good old days.” Christie (like Vancouver’s Jeff Derksen), uses nostalgia to address the nefariousness of myth, and the way that it defines our memories, and our sense of self: “Gee, I remember when everyone had a pool in their backyard.” We are who we are told to be, “the headlines are / behind the times” (“Desert People versus Forest People” 75).
But poetry is classically a tool of nation building, and Canada Post is acutely aware that the poetry is “a sequence of grifts where you move your wallet to, and then you move there too.” In Canada Post, the grift is acknowledged and expressed in miniature — it troubles its support of nation in favour of smaller gestures: the neighbourhood, the street, the home and the DMZ between your couch and your television.