“Imaginary Maps” by Darrell Epp

Posted: July 13, 2010 in Dark Art Cafe
Tags: , , , , ,

In a book full of jokes and jilted lovers, robots and werewolves, dead celebrities and retro cafes, there is a lot vying for your attention. Yet Darrell Epp, in Imaginary Maps, manages to use all of these distractions paraxocially to focus the reader on the often hidden mystery of life pulsing in urban environs.

He never solves this mystery; in fact he admits “an unquenchable hatred / for whoever ruins a mystery / by solving it” (“Mission Statement”). Epp’s urban world, like and unlike the cathedral on King St. in Hamilton where Epp lives, is “full of / relics secret and vital” but Epp ignores “the no / trespassing sign on the door” (“Now Slips Away”), and bi-passes realism as a way into reality. Instead, he imagines his own maps into the heart of an urban jungle of tangled emotions, regret, dissillusionment, and savage humor.

The insight that these “imaginary maps” offer  into modern existence always rings true, especially when Epp writes sadly of “a set of habits [being] mistaken for a life. / we work eat sleep and not much else. / a co-worker’s wife turned out to be / a robot, having started to rust around / the tear ducts: what had tasted like / true love, mere algorithm” (“Now Slips Away”).

In other poems Epp trianglulates his own co-ordinates – stuck right in the middle of a modern urban life – by pushing toward silent mystery through metaphoric expressions: “the sky is tatooed with the signature of / God. / like acrobats, / clouds tumble from one end of the world’s / roof to the other, just as they would if the / earth were flat. / rare jewels shatter in the rip tide, / bursts of amethyst and onyx as / big as my eyes. / I lack the vocabulary / for so many of / the very best things” (“What Johanna Said”). This silence Epp brings us to is what he elsewhere calls mystery: those relics “secret and vital” hidden in even the most mundane existence.

But Epp also steps back from mystery to hilariously critique daily life in this era: “21st century: a windswept mess nobody / wants to clean up, the same insomnia, / the same filthy claws, the same missing / pieces. I was hoping for more: where / are the flying cars we were promised / in the 50s? where is my robot butler? / where is the one who, after my hard day / on the martian colony, removes my jet / pack and says hi, sweetie, how was your day?” (What Happened?”).

Darrell Epp’s poems are funny and fun to read, playful but also deadly serious. His wonderful poetic images jar delightfully, like his description of city smog: “the air tastes like / rusted staples and flat pepsi” (King St. E. Blues). In the end, these poems scoff as much as they embrace the absurdities and sacredness of modern life. Epp writes that “all poems are prayers” (“My Sky”), and his poems certainly are prayers – sometimes reverent, often times irreverent – that use pop culture references to see beyond facade to essence, below surface to a depth of experience got at only in the best poetry.

Darrell Epp. Imaginary Maps. Signature Editions. 2009.


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