By Klipschutz (Kurt Lipschutz)
Anvil Press, 121 Pages, $18
Reviewed by Chris Ho
Over ten years in the making, This Drawn & Quartered Moon holds some astounding contemporary poetry that, taken all together, amuses and stirs the reader. Klipschutz – (yes, he’s cool enough to have a pen name) – is able to alternate between personal and public poems, and infuse them with decadent romance and poignant comedy without making things too weird. Hailing from San Francisco, Kurt Lipschutz is a poet, satirist, songwriter, and part-time scrivener in a law office.
The opening memo effectively sets the tone for the book, giving us a glimpse of Klipschutz’s tongue-and-cheek style and subtle commentary concerning the economic and social condition of the United States. After playfully filling in Wordsworth on the world today, Klipschutz tops it off with, “Say hi to Sam & Dorothy & the gang / (big hug to the missus) from the bloody future, / […] Brother, you don’t want to know.”
As would be appropriate for an introduction, “In Memory of Myself” further emphasizes the speaker’s ironic voice, and calls attention to the motifs concerning modernity, republicanism, consumerism, romance, and city life. Combining the personal and the public, we immediately get the sense that Klipschutz has carefully plotted out these works, despite their deceivingly colloquial nature:
Renovate me like one of your Victorians, San Francisco –
deck me out in color-coordinated sashwork & trim
& plunk me down beside a looker
on a Sunday cable car
from the turnaround at Woolworth’s
alongside Union Square …
O when will you embrace your blinking nipples, San Francisco –
tho they tear the rose from her brow
On the Starlight Room dance floor for all to see? …
Evidently not the kind of man who takes himself too seriously, Klipschutz gives us that cheeky political criticism just as easily as he interjects with wonderful one-liners that show the humour in romance. The overwhelming corporate influence on government is certainly a thematic concern for Klipschutz, but in poems like “You The Man,” he realizes that dry humour and irony are sometimes the best way to get the point across:
Another Ford from Michigan
once coveted the White House.
Henry hated Jews as much as Hitler
hated Russia. Oh but Jerry
played the slow-wit to a fault,
handed off the ethnic jokes to others,
with a head like a helmet, two knees to replace,
and assumed the Oval Office in reverse.
As Henry Ford represents the notion that consumerism is the key to peace, Klipschutz cleverly challenges the idea by sharply joining together the two major economic and political American Ford figures. This effectively draws attention to the implications of allowing huge corporations to have so much power over a country’s government and destiny.
There is something pleasing about the way Klipschutz both invites the reader to live and breathe the streets of San Francisco, and connect it to Western Civilization as a whole. The overall development of consumerism has been a huge focal point for many contemporary poets, and, for Klipschutz, the irony is never ending:
It’s a good day to have all this–
a promised land to zip around in,
a cruel tipsy blonde by my side,
the heat turned to high and gloves
of polished leather.
to pop out like jacks-in-the-box,
to survey our immediate surroundings.
Are they not to our liking?
we shall stuff ourselves back
in our coiled cube and be gone …
Once again, he interweaves decadent romance with decadent living, turning everything we know about our lifestyles right on its head, (and then pulling out a few white hairs just for laughs).
Some of the more solemn works help balance out Klipschutz’s comedic propensities with a tangy compassion and underlying tenderness. This is beautifully shown in the title poem of This Drawn & Quartered Moon, as the harsh consonant sounds of the words emphasize the dark underlying political motifs:
It hangs there like a broken toy
cut out, unpainted, crude
a toothless faceless grin
stationed over Talllahassee
the election given, Rehnquist’s gift, outright. . .
Kurt Lipschutz’s downplayed comedy and moving tragedy give the reader a mixture of hard-hitting, and softly meandering poetry that is all at once relevant and subtle. The “autodidact and gregarious loner” boldly (but humbly) takes the stage for This Drawn & Quartered Moon and then earns himself that glorious encore we all dream of.
Chris Ho is a Uvic graduate, musician and avid peach eater