you are entirely happy with your poem / you are not happy then there is no charge and your deposit is returned / you are totally satisfied with the outcome / you are a man / you are a little confused / you are entirely happy with your poem / you are not happy then there is no charge and your deposit is returned / you are totally satisfied with the outcome …
a) a figure of speech in which a person, an abstract quality or a nonexistent entity is addressed as though present
b) a poem written in 1993 in which every sentence is an apostrophe
c) a program — apostropheengine.ca — based on the 1993 poem that hijacks search engines in order to extend the poem infinitely
d) a book of poetry written using the website
The answer: e) all of the above.
Bill Kennedy and Darren Wershler-Henry’s Apostrophe contains all of these things, except the search engine (but you can visit that any time you like). Each line from the original poem has become the title of a new poem generated by the program’s metonymic romp through the World Wide Web. Phrases rub against each other promiscuously; poems and readers alike come to their own conclusions. The results are by turns poignant, banal, offensive and hilarious, but always surprising and always unaffected. In other words, everything a book of contemporary poetry should be, and then some.
Poet and scholar Charles Bernstein has suggested that Apostrophe may be related to Freud’s notion of the uncanny, a somnambulistic drift that appears aimless yet somehow always returns to “you.” Apostrophe is an entirely new kind of poetry: neither stable nor unstable, sections come and go, but the overall shape of the poem remains vaguely familiar, like a trick of memory.
Bill Kennedy is the Artistic Director of The Scream Literary Festival, a poetry editor for Coach House Books and one of the organizers of the Toronto-based Lexiconjury Reading Series. He also runs Stop14, a new media development company. Darren Wershler-Henry teaches Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is the author of two books of poetry, NICHOLODEON, and the tapeworm foundry (shortlisted for the Trillium Prize). His most recent book is The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting (2005, McClelland & Stewart).