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Reseñas, Issue 8 | December 2012

     

Death of a Mauve Bat

Reviewed by SONIA GUTIÉRREZ

death-mauve-batGerald Locklin, editor of Chiron Review, has coined poet Rick Lupert as “one of the most gifted humorous poets of the planet.” In his fourteenth collection of poetry, Death of a Mauve Bat, the humor floods through. So, if you enjoy poetry—in particularly the type that makes you laugh—and you have never visited Canada, Rick Lupert’s Death of a Mauve Bat is an invitation to merriment, and extreme wanderlust. Lupert’s new release does exactly what the subtitle promises; it presents The Poet’s Experiences in and on the Way to and from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and more.

On the cover art’s foreground, the flabbergasted facial expression of a statue leaning back as it holds a babe is a true eye-opener. By the time the reader’s eyes glimpse the cover’s background, it is clear that the reader will enter a time machine, or better yet—a twilight zone of sorts. Judging from the cover alone, the reader will be intrigued to connect the dots and answer two important questions about Lupert’s collection.” The first question, what does Lupert’s title—Death of a Mauve Bat—mean? And, inevitably, the second question is, what exactly were Rick Lupert’s experiences in Canada?

Lupert’s framing strategies include an introduction to Canada by Lupert listing four epigraphs, including one from Canadian actor Eugene Levy: “Tons of movies are shot in Toronto, but Toronto is never Toronto.” Skillfully, Lupert then divides the collection into nine parts and then ends with an epilogue; the first section begins with “Everything Begins with a New Jersey Wedding.” “Toronto in Which Things Are Put in Our Mouths,” “At the ROM Where We Encounter the Fanged Yogini,” and “Casa Loma Where Secrets Are Easily Discovered” are among titles that will lure curious readers to discover the peculiarities Lupert’s foreign eyes witness. “All the model soldiers with/their model asses pointed/at our eager faces,” set the poet’s tone, “I am sitting across the street/from the Village Idiot Pub. . . ./The people inside wink at me./They know what I’m about.”

Death of a Mauve Bat
by Rick Lupert
Ain’t Got No Press, 2012
$13.00, 160 pages

From the press

Black and white snapshots for each section also encapsulate the collection’s themes throughout the book. Selecting photographs with higher contrast resolution would have made for stronger visual representations of Canadian sightings. However, one that really makes the reader chuckle is Lupert’s snapshot of the bottom half of a man standing in shorts, black dress up shoes, and black socks cleverly foreshadowing “Canadian Fashion” in the “In the AGO Where Ekphrastia Goes Wild” poems.

With or without photographs, Lupert makes the reader think and laugh at his clever, idiosyncratic lines as in his poem, “Ode to G.H. Wells”; Lupert writes, “We see a blind man’s cane/ On a picnic table outside/ Casa Loma. There is no blind man/ It’s possible that he is invisible.” Lupert’s “Ode to G.H. Wells” is exactly what the Joker does in his prank at an art competition, where he claims that his painting—a blank canvas—is a representation of “a dead bat. It died in 1936. . . .” (The Joker’s “Death of a Mauve Bat” wins the art competition!) Similar to the Joker, Lupert adopts a similar approach in “Ode to G.H. Wells” where he writes about a cane on a picnic table and appropriates the Joker’s trickery, “There is no blind man/It’s possible that he is invisible.”

Throughout the collection, the reader will find Lupert’s diction accessible, making his poetry less contrived. Like a zeitgeist, the poet keenly describes Canadian fashion, museums, paintings, people, more paintings, smells, historical landmarks, and even food, through a witty poet’s perspective. Before embarking on Lupert’s Canadian journey, the reader should look up one key word, “ekphrasis,” in order to understand the collection in its entirety. That is, many of the poems focus on the theme of ekphrastia—by presenting commentary on visual works of arts.

To the poet and man, Addie is clearly Lupert’s ekphrasis. Thematically, the poet’s muse, Addie, becomes an essential literary reference throughout the collection. It is Addie who grounds the poet, Rick Lupert. Newlyweds, they both embark on a journey, a metaphor in itself and a blank canvas in his own words, “She becomes the painting. She has always been the painting.” Ekphrasis at its finest! Throughout the collection, Lupert gives Addie a place in his writing. There are over a dozen references that indicate the poet is enthralled by Addie. “She knew what I meant/which made me love her/all the more,” confesses Lupert.

Besides a persistent love theme, the poet engages in political discourse and the mundane, showcasing tension between countries and people. Eloquently, Lupert drops two or three sociopolitical lines. “A Representation of the Ancient Kingdom of Egypt,” is one such poem, where Lupert comments on Israel and Palestine’s hostile boundaries, referencing a painting at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM); the poet describes the painting, “There are no discernable lines . . . Maybe we should do that./Remove the lines.” On the other hand, there are other poems that cross the line between witty and sophomoric as if Rick Lupert were the Jim Carey of poetry; such is the case of “The Kensington Market Area Is Populated Completely by Mexicans and Lesbians*”. Although at times short in audience and offensive, Mexicans/Chicanos/ and LGBTQ folk visiting Canada can take, ironically, Lupert’s poem as a tour guide and visit the Kensington Market Area.

By the end of the Lupert’s collection, similar to the statue on the cover, this reader took her hands to the sides of her head in amazement with the idea that poetry could, perhaps, be easygoing and silly. In the end, Lupert’s short poems, mirror the Joker’s winning canvas, “Death of a Mauve Bat,” filled with white space—an intertextual metaphor: The story is outside of the pages—like the Joker’s painting.

Death of a Mauve Bat