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The Good News About Armageddon [Paperback]

Steve McOrmond
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 15 2010

Poems that occupy the difficult territory of contemporary crisis with great candour and trenchant wit.

Steve McOrmond's unflinching take on contemporary life, with its saturnine candour and ironic focus, may remind readers of the anti-poetry of Europeans like Zbigniew Herbert: intense, humanistic and deeply sceptical of inflationary gestures or stagy rhetoric. Shedding illusions, but equally refusing the consolations of despair, McOrmond's well-tempered satire is carried home on its own crisp music.

The title poem has, as it narrative background, the encounter between the narrator and a young door-to-door missionary, one who sets his worldly and jaded scepticism against her innocence and faith. “The Good News about Armageddon” poses questions that are difficult and durable (“In these hours of prolific / doubt, how will we acquit ourselves?”), as well as those that are topical (“Are Paris Hilton’s 15 minutes over yet?”) and probes with accurate wit (“We are an argument / for unintelligent design”). This is essential poetry for our time — astute, informed, bitingly satirical, yet grounded in its quest for words that, like Cordelia’s, reverb no hollowness.

Product Details

Product Description

Quill & Quire

When John Thompson died at the age of 38, he left behind a manuscript of 38 ghazals, a Persian form Thompson had adapted and personalized. That manuscript was published posthumously as Stilt Jack, a legendary book whose legacy has been enormous.

In 2010, PEI native Steve McOrmond turns 39. That the 39-ghazal title section of his new collection is the best part of his book is both good and bad news. Writing some three decades after Thompson, McOrmond’s references – to the Taliban, Paris Hilton, and YouTube, among others – are up-to-the-minute, and there are many arresting lines in the sequence. Nevertheless, the tone and mood – even the syntax and ironic stance – feel borrowed from Thompson. Sometimes the nod is explicit, but the cumulative effect is more of a well-executed but derivative homage than a credibly authentic utterance.

Perhaps this is why “The Good News About Armageddon” occupies fewer than half of the book’s pages, whereas Stilt Jack was intended as a standalone book. Diffusion, the bugbear of many an overpadded contemporary poetry collection, plagues this one. There are shining moments in the book – notably, its excellent closing sonnet – but there are also swaths of desultory bad sledding. A 16-page meditation on the grounding of an ice-breaking ferry is about as dynamic as, well, a boat stuck on a shoal.

Most of the persona poems scattered throughout the book feel like creative writing exercises, their speakers never quite coming to life. In a satirical piece, McOrmond writes, “The poet ... ought to write more interesting poems,” but ironically, the poem dwindles from its provocative opening into a drab catalogue of speculations.

This book is perhaps symptomatic of the bad news about Canadian poetry. McOrmond’s third publication in six years seems to be evidence that, far from facing apocalyptic extinction, Poeta Canadensis is a touch too well-fed by publishers hungry for content.

About the Author

Steve McOrmond’s first collection, Lean Days (2004), was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award. His second, Primer on the Hereafter (2006), was awarded the Atlantic Poetry Prize. Originally from Prince Edward Island, he now lives in Toronto.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Awe-Inspiring July 13 2011
By K. Howe
I'll get to the full disclosure in a second. This is a moving, clever, funny, and brilliant book. The opening poem (unless derivative of something I don't know about)is one of those great ideas worthy of Yogi Berra (who makes an appearance later). The opening sequence is made up of what don't look like anybody else's ghazals, each of which has at least one surprise that should your socks off, in a gently lyrical or quirky or interesting way. The poems in the middle section sometimes have what seem to me to be missteps, but all the poems pay off and are well worth reading. The least interesting section of the book is the long poem about a ferry stuck in the ice. (Full disclosure: this poem was part of my introduction to McOrmond's work years ago. I was in a poetry group with him at the time. I take no responsibility for the poem.)There are, perhaps, a couple too many evocations of the human testical. The book closes with a long string of unrelated but spellbinding apocalyptic works (with the odd squib)to make the end of the world rock. Where does he get this stuff?
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