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Review: Hymn by John Barton

Author: John Barton

Book: Hymn

Publisher: Brick Books (2009)

From underwear to the Eurowave to restaurants to — yes, even poetry collections — the new reviews section on Up Your Alley is really taking off in a weird, what-the-fuck-will-people-send-me-next kind of way…. BOOYAH!

When John Barton's publisher contacted me to see if I would like to review his most recent collection, I'll admit that I hesitated. The truth is I haven't read a new book of poetry since last fall, which is exactly the last time I was writing new poetry as well. Shame shame you know my name. I know. I'm a fucking ign'ant monster right? For whatever reason, blogging, Facebook, Twitter and reading other blogs just feels so goddamn luxurious nowadays that it's easy to forget to take the time to read, you know, real books.

And if you've never picked up a book of contemporary poetry, books like Hymn will give you a good idea of what you've been missing. Poetry has a way of slowing the world down because it slows language down, breaking it into lines and rhythms that literally force one's mind to stop and think.

Barton is no stranger to poetry. Since 1980, his poems have appeared in more than 30 anthologies and 75 magazines both here in Canada and in a number of countries overseas. He has also held numerous editorial positions, including being one of the creative forces behind the groundbreaking Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Male Poets (Arsenal Pulp 2007).

Let's stop circle-jerking for a sec and call a spade a spade. Barton is prolific…so prolific, I am going to take a moment to call him out on being a slut–of the literary variety of course! Actually, he is one of the sluttiest of aforementioned prolific literary sluts that I know. I figure he must be writing books while he's sleeping… or maybe he doesn't sleep.

We all know the answer to that one, don't we? **wink**

Anyway, my favourite moments in his new collection are when he uses his impressive observational prowess to produce exquisite observations on all of the big and small events that make a sexual relationship real. Sections of Hymn find Barton cataloguing the candlelight dinners, the late nights in bed, the flowers, the hotel rooms and then "the echoes voided by your death." The poems that address this are beautiful and real.

In "Ideogram, in the Half-Light" a lover's shoulder blades become "parentheses against my chest."

My copy of Hymn also included cards of one of the poems included in this collection, "10 Lines For X," which was definitely my favourite:

And now a readable version:

 

Nice work eh?

If you're interested in seeing more of Barton's work, drop by Little Sister's here in Vancouver or a book retailer close to your home.

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