Pure Product

Pure Product

By Bert Almon

A review of Pure Product by Jason Guriel

Published on October 1, 2009

Pure Product
Jason Guriel

Vehicule Press
$16
paper
50pp
978-1-55065-254-3

Jason Guriel draws the title of his book from a celebrated poem by William Carlos Williams, who lamented the human wastage in American life in a poem beginning “The pure products of America / go crazy, a lament for a woman called ‘some Elsie’.” But perhaps there is a little too much nail cleaning and not enough of the old woman in Guriel’s poems: he has a tendency toward whimsy. He writes inconsequential poems about abbreviations (“I.e.,” “E.g.,” “Etc.”), and a short poem about “The Long Poem.” Many of the poems are self-consciously about writing and style without quite achieving the epigrammatic brilliance of a Ben Jonson or J. V. Cunningham. The “Five Sonnets for Summer Storage in the High School Book Room” are mannered and perfunctory (rhyming “prick” and “anemic” in a final couplet is off-key).

But two poems are unforgettable. “For a Neighbour” commemorates an elderly ex-neighbour by describing what new owners have done to his decrepit house. It is a traditional trope to use house as a metaphor for its inhabitant, but the device doesn’t seem trite here. “Upright in Bed” describes a father interlacing his good hand with the one disabled by a stroke. “Only half of him has a say in the matter.” The blood clot has both severed and not severed the man’s arm: Guriel creates a set of paradoxes to convey the frustration when a body is half-present and half-missing. The poem is clever but clever for a purpose and the result is deeply moving. mRb

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

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