USEREVIEW 052 (Capsule): Yes, I am a corpse flower
Yes, I am a corpse flower (knife|fork|book, 2021)
ISBN 978-1-989355-27-5 | 108 pp | $20 CAD | BUY Here
The poetry debut of writer, editor and book artist Travis Sharp and the second full-length collection put out by Toronto independent publisher knife | fork | book, Yes, I am a corpse flower (2021), articulates the ache and bliss that accompany occupying a (queer) body at odds with the (heteronormative, late-capitalist) world. As the book’s title (also the title of the first of its six sections) suggests, the lyric subject within these pages marries beauty and rot, pleasure and pain, joy and despair. In reading Sharp’s collection, I was reminded of the French term la petite mort, a phrasing that denotes the subtle let-down that occurs post-orgasm, suggesting a thin line between desire and death. Yes, I am a corpse flower is written along a similar thin line. While tone and form vary throughout (the third section, for example, “The body under valuation: a musical,” is written in five acts and accompanied by performance notes), the collection reads as an extended meditation, the speaker expressing both tenderness and dread as he teases out the tensions that emerge among the corporeal, the mind and the world. I have had the chance to hear Sharp read from this book a couple times now, thanks to online readings organized by his publisher, and appreciate the way his rapid delivery emphasizes the propulsive force of his poetry. Circuitous and expansive, Yes, I am a corpse flower is as much an exercise in queering poetic style as it is a representation of queer experience.
The fourth section ‘I guess we should talk about our feelings’ (pp. 47-68), responds to the body’s pain and failure with affection. The poems in this sequence are written in short lines, the poet using a kind of radical enjambment, often ending a line in the middle of a word, as in one of my favourite pieces, ‘A Body Love Apologetic’: “& now / I treat all / of my parts / with equal / conster / nation / harried / legs un / shaven / touch touch / & sigh.”