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Nyman returns to Cobourg for book launch reading

Players is the debut book of poetry by John Nyman, who is a fascinating presence in Canadian literature.

His work arrives as an eclectic and intricate presentation. Several poems derive from Nyman’s conceptual poetics; cleverly assembled and dazzlingly effective.

Connections is a piece that is steeped in tender enigma. The poet is attracted to another person with serendipitous sightings on Toronto transit. It’s almost a love paean, wanting but genderless and the wanting remains ambiguous. “We looked at each other briefly. I liked your smile,” the poem ends. There is more to this than meets the eye. It is not just about a fleeting affinity felt between two people in transit, it is also the accord that had to be created to make these lines work. Nyman explains in notes that “all of the poem’s phases are taken from posts on craigslist Toronto’s missed connections section.”

Throughout this collection you will find inventive word-play that teases with multiple meanings or just delights in itself as in Recorded Instructions for a Secret Agent; “This deep, it’s not all song but sometimes / it’s all a sham; / I’m not just saying that. / This deep, it’s not / all song but sometimes / we repeat ourselves / for clarity.” … “I’m saying / walk, stay cautious, / hands in your pockets where they’re safe.”

Nyman is clearly a poet of this era, his composition littered with the vocabulary of hand devices and ambiance of the sinister. They add an edge to the enjoyment of his writing. PLAYERS ends with a 10-page concept work entitled Desk Index. John Nyman explains it as an “alphabetized list of every occurrence of every textual phrase printed or inscribed on an item on or in my bedroom desk on the date of collection, August 6, 2015.” The result is a seemly-comprehensive insight into Mr. Nyman. The Desk Index informs us that there are four items of “120v,” an item of “8GB,” lots of “BLOOR,” “CINEMA.” What Nyman has deconstructed for us could be reassembled by a forensic textpert. More intriguing is the absence of certain data: there is no postal code, no phone number, no social insurance number, not even the word POETRY.

Nyman has presented his poetry in Cobourg previously as part of the official opening event for the April, 2015 T E X T ual A R T ivity, a month-long exhibition of visual poetry (vispo) because he was one of the participating pictorial artists. He will visit again on Thursday, June 2 to give his Cobourg book launch reading for Players (Palimpsest Press) at The Human Bean. The event starts at 7:30 p.m.

- Review by Wally Keeler