A review of Jason Bredle’s Carnival

CarnivalCarnival by Jason Bredle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bredle is a weirdo. Dancing along the poetry-prose divide like a cat creeping on a wall, this little collection is very much “out there”. Thirty or so pieces, almost all paragraph form, no line breaks, just well-balanced sentences. What’s to like: surreal, magical imagery and symbols that place you in the familiar. What’s not to like: surreal, magical imagery and symbols that just don’t mean anything to you, and thus are merely weird.

Fine by me, I love weird.

Poetry collections aren’t something you read in a single sitting, anyhow. Rather, you take nibbles and put the wrapped cookie back in your pocket. If we push the metaphor, with poetry, you can vomit up some cookie to eat it all over again. Tastes a bit different every time; semi-digested.

There’s the one about the water-park (Splash Country). There’s the one about the Carnival. These capture an essence of place, a sort of aura, and create a pleasant patchwork of sensation, and a lot of comedy wrapped in the unreal: “Do you think it’s hard to lactate without a nipple?” “I won a racist prize in a crying contest.” Then there’s some deeply personal thorns that draw a little blood. Gravitron rides, candy-floss-coated kids and water-slides, and in passing, just a half-thought, a mention of the girl the narrator knew he would never see again after that day. Mixed into the fruity-loop madness, there’s black and white too: “If I could, I’d tattoo your name on my skeleton.”

There’s recurring imagery that just made me grin broadly, reading in the Metro, probably looking like a lunatic. The miniature horse that keeps biting Giancarlo (I can’t help but imagine Giancarlo as Raoul Duke’s attorney, Doctor Gonzo); the guy in the scissor store, Mr. Scissorsby; Doctor Wolf-Puma, head of the animal bites ward of the hospital; and the neighbour’s cat, recurrent kidnap-victim… The poems travel, too: abroad, airports, suburbia, domestic life, theme parks, space, a rooftop poolside party in Vegas. It’s Americana, for sure.

Seuss meets Disney meets Tim Burton meets Timothy Leary, maybe. Some may complain that it’s just a lot of the same, rehashing, milking a dead cow – I recommend not trying to take it all in one sitting. I liked it, in small doses. The collection holds together, the pieces speak to each other, and there is a sense of narrative, even if it goes off the rails at every intersection. Who needs rails? This is poetry we’re talking about.

View all my reviews


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: