Downverse (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2014)

Nikki Reimer’s Downverse has lost its faith in the power of poetry to express any emotion without commodifying it. One of Reimer’s most affecting poems is, oddly, a list of “insurance outcomes”: “Life / The Principal Sum / Both Hands / The Principal Sum / … / Entire Sight of One Eye / Two-Thirds of the Principal Sum.”

In this way, life and limb are literally valued. Another poem sees Reimer expressing herself as we all do, through her monthly budget (she spends 4% of her income on books and 0.3% on the afore-mentioned life insurance policy). However cold such “expressions” feel, they are in fact as raw (in their way) as any properly “poetic” emotion, more indicative of the poet’s real concerns.

Reimer crashing different registers of found text against one another for startling and humorous effects. One poem juxtaposes the oddball opinions that “perhaps what al Qaeda really needed was a fresh start under a new name” and “no matter what his name, or whether he is a stray, the street-savvy dog has captured the public’s imagination.”

Soon the poem announces that “we are focusing more on education when responding to chicken complaints” — whether silly, wry, or deadpan, Reimer plays black comedy off against an anguished frustration.

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