Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Midlife Action Figure Has Arrived!

      My latest collection Midlife Action Figure is not scheduled to come out until next month but already copies have arrived at my house and they look stunning! I am very excited for everyone to read it as I think it will surprise many. I took a lot of risks with this book and Bob Hicok and Catherine Owen very graciously offered to blurb the collection.

       Already, there is a buzz starting to build around the book and I couldn't be happier! There is an upcoming starred review of Midlife Action Figure in Quill and Quire which will be out in September's issue.

      Here is a little taste of the review: "Midlife Action Figure delivers surprise, delight, and sense; Banks slams sly one liners as though he were competing in a professional wrestling match..." and "Midlife Action Figure is an insightful tour through the human experience, crafted in clear and specific imagery that captivates the imagination and the intelligence. It is a book that begs to be read and reread."

Special thanks to Micheline Maylor for taking the time to read my book and capturing the essence of what I was trying to do in her review.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Award-Winning Speech

Award-Winning Speech

Because after primary school no one
gets participation ribbons, cherry trees
drop petals like prizes across the yard.
I am famous for counting stars, catching
grasshoppers, anxiety. Give everyone
a medal for surviving heartache, divorce,
therapists. A gravestone is a trophy you win
after death. Truth deserves its own points
program. I’m saving up for sea monkeys,
X-ray vision, immortality. I won the contest
at my place of employment for blood
circulation, work despondancy, art
emergencies. Every year, I know less than
the year before, but still the rewards 
keep piling up like medical prescriptions,
credit card debt. The evidence dictates
each day is a prototype for Heaven or Hell.
Make your choice wisely. I accept this honour
on behalf of leaving nothing out: vitamins, 
lower back pain, river walks. My speech
will not make the headlines. The cherry trees
rain down coloured applause.

By Chris Banks

Friday, June 21, 2019

Midlife Action Figure Coming in September 2019!

Well, my next book Midlife Action Figure is coming out with ECW Press in just over two months, and I couldn't be more excited! 

It is always a pleasure to work with my editor Michael Holmes and I think we have come up with something very special with this new collection which I'm calling a book of light surrealism and aphoristic wisdom. 

Instead of going with pull quotes from several newspaper reviews of my last book The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory, I elected to ask my American poet friend Bob Hicok and Canadian poetic comrade Catherine Owen to blurb the collection ahead of publication. Here is what they have to say about the book: 

"My spirit guide is a scarecrow; guilt is everyone’s personal gulag; can I coat-check this malaise; death is classically trained: Chris Banks builds poems out of short sentences that are like photons, little packets of energy full of aphoristic punch and surprise. He delights in the swings of imagination, in the way every next image or idea can plow new ground even as it alters the meaning and feel of what has preceded it. The result is a constant state of euphoria, an ongoing demonstration of the swerve and swirl of human consciousness. A river is a correspondence course -- as with so many lines here, my recognition that I’ve never thought of it that way is followed immediately by the sensation that there’s no other way to see it, that I am being shown the truth."        
- Bob Hicok

"The laboratory of aesthetics / these days is really about mischief / and surprise, writes Chris Banks in this collection of cheeky, pointed dicta on everything from how to survive an emergency to enduring a job interview, amid surreal admissions that the speaker has a "minor crush on Saturn's moons" or possibly suffers a "slow leak" as each year his "heart grows an extra ring." Midlife Action Figure is a book of solid poems from the centre of existing, through deep space and the places in the mind like "Matryoshka dolls" that endlessly nest into their own allusiveness, returning with a yield of essential observations and imperatives for the continuance of the earth."   - Catherine Owen

Wednesday, January 2, 2019



Centipede creature roaming over a bathroom-tile empire.
Do you dream? Imagine? Now that the trial offer
is over, do you want to extend your sadness for another
six months for the low, low cost of your happiness?
We live our lives between driving lessons, bad hair-cuts.
Growing up, I was taught to be scared of Communism
and strangers, but then adolescence came, and I wanted
         to bury the word helpless in my heart. I felt useless,
dispossessed of utility, and that was my super-power.
I walked my malaise to a high-school and back home
dreaming how my poems would fix the world when,
         in reality, they couldn’t even fix me. In my twenties,
love found me, and broke me expertly in many places.
         I began to mourn myself which was self-pity
traveling the  Möebius strip of my brain’s neural network,
         until it wore a groove into my head. Friends
became doctors, lawyers, while I got a D in penmanship
         and cultural amnesia. I want to put all old things
into this box, into this moment, to stop time. Stretch
         Armstrong, Simon Says, mickeys of lemon gin,
sex with room-mates, midnight movies, Blake’s Marriage
         of Heaven and Hell, mortgages and car loans,
pet deaths and child births. Enough Molotov cocktails
and fun-house mirrors to go around. Even you
silverfish living behind the toilet, you deserve a measure
of praise. Even though you wish not to be seen.
The way you survive without music or magic tricks, without
orange juice or Baudelaire, without roses
or one night stands, preferring cold floors of darkness,
strangely never wishing to be anything else.

By Chris Banks

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Elegy of Now: Jeff Latosik’s “DreamPad

     “We have to postulate a fiction. // I could follow what is real down to its furnaces.” In his latest bracing poetry collection, Dreampad, Jeff Latosik loops childhood memories, samples clearance sales and photostreams, and remixes a world gone, “so boho, but it can also go all doorknobs// on you.” These doorknobs, if the reader chooses to turn them, open onto meditations which resist closure and openly question the authority of the personal lyric, as Latosik orders and shapes the ephemera of now, the present moment, troubleshooting existence by showing how conditional our lives are.

     The first thing readers notice when digging into this book is its sheer size but there is no dead-weight to be found. His first poem “Dreampad”, which is also the title of the collection, is breath-taking in its sweep and scope.  

It’s this calendar I’ve dislodged and am playing
like a simple music grid controller.

It’s the past, plus all I’ve sleep-talked
and confused with what took place

and it starts out with a pulse of light click-tracking
across time and space. I gather up some days

and make a living beat to layer over. Then the grid
populates as memory, which has reverb

and you best believe it has attack. Myself, age eight,
coming back from a vacation that my mother

and stepfather had themselves dreamed up
heading in the same direction for the last time

and I’ve got a salamander hidden in my hand.
I want to make a commune for the part-pond things

but when I look again it’s just a smear of red
like I’ve wrenched down a nebula.

My stepfather looking out onto the highway
must have felt the same thing when he understood

my mother would be leaving—some general lack
over which the world comes tumbling again.

Hence, a trick I like to do. I make all that isn’t
come to in a half-life of being dreamed and as I do the days

patch through in a way that’s hard to damp and fade.
Strange, though, my remixing’s not my stepfather getting clean,

or my mother finally getting to live beside the Atlantic.
I feel it in my hand sometimes, like a rubber band

has tightened in my wrist, but I play better than I once did
the older that I do. I missed something that made my life.

     The trick this poem is doing is taking the speaker’s experience and not rendering it sequentially but “remixing” it with memory, making “a living beat to layer over”, as the speaker boasts, "I make all that isn’t //come to in a half-life of being dreamed”. This suggests memories are not so much what happened but are more a by-product of the moment we are living. He admits in the poem’s conclusion “I missed something that made my life” which reads like an elegy to both the past and the present.

     In another poem in the collection ”The Fortune You Seek Is In Another Cookie”, this theme of celebrating the pursuit of meaning while simultaneously mourning its loss as  ephemeral, continues with the speaker admitting “What you think should be is often in another life, not this one”. The ending of the poem is particularly salient when the speaker's suspicions about meaning are realized while they are sorting through memories and experiences: 

 Let’s say one night you were sorting through everything
that made you realize you weren’t the person you thought;
somehow you’d sliced through the thin adhesive strip
that separates each thing from where it should have stayed.
Perhaps you’d walk through every room watching sunlight
slow-tsunami the parquet with its lone blend of everything that is,
plus a cleaving quiet. And you might come to rest on a view
of somebody sitting on a stoop outside waiting for news
of a friend who’s not now suddenly so far. Or even far-gone.

      Latosik has a deft gift for phrasing with lines like “watching sunlight // slow-tsunami the parquet with its lone blend of everything that is”. He writes just as eloquently whether it is in tercets or quatrains or long meditative block lines.  

In a later poem “The Great Illusion”, Latosik writes “Our everyday sense of being // evicted from the real and true for a few electric shivers.” Clearly, this is what Jeff Latosik is doing in his latest poetry collection DreamPad. An elegy of now, this book shows how precarious reality is as it interrogates our private lives within the public realm. Pick up a copy from your local bookstore and read these poems for yourself.

By Chris Banks