Maple Leaf Rag

Maple Leaf Rag

A review of Maple Leaf Rag by Kaie Kellough

Published on October 1, 2010

Maple Leaf Rag
Kaie Kellough

Arbeiter Ring Publishing

Kaie Kellough’s Maple Leaf Rag alludes in its title to the most famous composition by the brilliant African-American musician, Scott Joplin. Kellough himself is a DJ and spoken word poet well known in Montreal. The title is a deft way of asserting the value of Black culture and the poet’s Canadian identity. For Kellough, Harlem and New Orleans are part of his cultural context, and he draws on American jazz and rock music. The pages of the book are wide and accommodate sprawling sound poems that suggest hip hop and some extravagant (as in, beyond the boundaries) visual works. One poem, “Word Sound System,” is scored for reading, but it is confusing to have 4/4 time indicated when the poem is actually in triple time. Perhaps some form of syncopation is involved. The language of the poems takes in the demotic (including snatches of Québécois French) and the literary. Kellough revels in alliteration: “p pour persiflage” is a chant made up of words beginning with p, and “babylon’s bside” is built on the letter b. Here and there the poems show more rhetoric than substance, but the rhetoric is natural in a performance poet: many of the poems are only scores for recitation. He promises to put recordings of some of Maple Leaf Rag on his website. He is a poet worth listening for. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.



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