10 x (10 + -10) = 0 (2014)

Jack Ross, ed.: Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 [Issue #49] (October 2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Doc Drumheller. 10 x (10 + -10) = 0: A ten year, ten book project, 20/02/2002-21/02/2012. ISBN 978-0-473-27757-4. Christchurch: The Republic of Oma Rāpeti Press, 2014.

Doc Drumheller: 10 x (10 + -10) = 0 (2014)

You can open this huge, mad book on any page and find some irritating set of silly rhymes designed to set your teeth on edge: “Homesick / sailors lick / salt from their thick / beards tasting oil slick / oceans that are seasick” [Part 8, p.6]. Like Zukofsky’s almost equally eccentric “literal” translation of Catullus, it seems more calculated to enrage than engage its readers. And yet, the sheer scale of the performance – in both cases – gives one pause. Is it madness? Or is there an underlying message here about the multiple effects of language? Drumheller is an addict of text-experiments such as those pioneered by the founders of Oulipo. He’s certainly not unconscious of the effect such deliberately baffling texts can have on this predisposed to look for a reassuring orderliness in their reading. I think, finally, that Drumheller’s book could be said to make as much – or as little – sense as the equally baffling rhymes of Edward Lear. A haunted spirit of unease seems to lie at the roots of both projects. Dismiss him if you dare, but I suspect that Drumheller has more to teach than to learn from those of us who live within slightly safer margins of experimentation. It’s no accident that his work is prescribed reading in some at least of Lisa Samuels’ university writing courses.


Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 227.

[249 wds]

Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)

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