Davie Street Translations, Daniel Zomparelli
2012, Talonbooks, Vancouver BC
$16.95, 978-0-88922-683-8, 86 pages
reviewed by rob mclennan
It’s 2 a.m., when attentions
are erect and the chance for new play
dwindles as the club empties out. It’s
hard on the brain to get off the things
you want to do, but with the right
bad intentions, the right moment comes
with the wrong guy. So it has come to this
so it has cum to this. Call me up
on the line, and meet me late at
night, lusting, hungry and hung –
retell the same old tale, same old tail
and find yourself on a familiar bed
just remember that the walk of shame
taste different when it’s not the same.
When you’re the one to blame.
Ain’t that a shame.
Vancouver poet and editor Daniel Zomparelli’s first trade poetry collection, Davie Street Translations (Talonbooks, 2012) is a self-described documentary collage-sketch of “gay male culture in Vancouver,” focusing specifically in one neighbourhood. The poems, including with graffiti-type sketches, rely on a quick movement, cutting a wide swath through the map of culture, as a love song to a segment of Vancouver life and culture not often discussed in poetry. There is a roughness here that appeals, but one that could have been tighter, a looseness that works well for some poems but not others. Still, Zomparelli’s Davie Street Translations adds to a poetic description of the city, setting himself along such other current and former Vancouver writers as Sachiko Murakami, George Bowering, Meredith Quartermain, George Stanley, Oana Avasilichioaei, Daphne Marlatt and Shannon Stewart. What is it about Vancouver that compels such overt poetic descriptions and tributes?
There is a lyric twist here that staggers, and shatters. And the tightness of the two poem sequence “A Part of Your World” is quite startling, reminiscent of the complex lyric gymnastics of Ottawa-turned-Toronto poet Marcus McCann, with other threads as echoes of the gym poems in Vancouver poet Mark Cochrane’s second trade collection, Change Room (Talonbooks, 2000). The title of the collection isn’t mere decoration or boast, but a declaration, as his poems translate the rough quality of downtown life, as he writes to open “A Part of Your World”: “Fins for feet when you know you are something / more. I would be beautiful, I would be beautiful.”
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2011, and his most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com