Colin Smith

ISBN 978-1-92865-028-7
89 pages




8 x 8 x 7 finds the Winnipeg-based poet Colin Smith in panopticon mode, his eye everywhere, glittering and shifting planes like a human kaleidoscope. Even those who have followed Smith’s career since his term in Vancouver’s estimable Kootenay School of Writing, and his previous book Multiple Poses (Tsunami Editions, 1997) might not be prepared for the intensity of feeling now so thoroughly mashed up with his vaunted multiplicity. After a blistering, acid-laced opening salvo, ironically titled “Just,” Smith builds up the attack through a series of escalating feints and rhapsodies. His targets include war, unemployment, sexual category, the talking heads of TV and continental philosophy, outsourcing, liberal piety and, most touchingly, his own body, once a source of comfort and strength, now a font of lacerating pain. No two poems in his book are alike, but they surround an uncommon fire. After a touching finale, “Codicil,” a sort of coda, “Goodbye (Riddance),” puts us right back on the block again. What is 8 x 8 x 7 anyhow? At first you might think it’s a toaster; now then maybe not. You’re in this condition of doubt recommended by the poet, whose title poem points to a place from which we might retrace our misguided steps: “’I don’t know’ is a good start.”


Colin Smith is in curious pain, and he wants to know the source. So he feels around for clues with his mother-tongue baby id in the “sharps” dumpster of language, disenjoying the plenitude of positive results. There’s always already an avalanche of data, as any ingenious cottage linguist pointing to social relations as materialized in language will show-not-tell you. Colin is “subject to,” like every other thumbsucker, but doesn't mistakenly think God/Dad or the ghosts have it out for him. Why would a statistic think that way? Back pain is structural, specific and symptomatic. Pain is all the more real (therefore: combatable) when it’s understood as the improperty of the unhappy masses. Woe is me, me is us. Colin Smith’s meticulously foul temper, unfed greed for answers, rage against the condom dispenser in cancerously funny poetry is as specific as “it” gets. To be made an example of.

--Donato Mancini