`Everything from her mouth / I wrote down in a blue book.'
So begins Hot Poppies, a collection of poems by Leon Rooke, that grand master of the vocal jag and lyrical roar. Those who know Rooke's fiction -- the Governor General's award-winning novel Shakespeare's Dog, for example -- will expect his first published poems to be rife with surreal flourishes, blazing language, sex, death, dogs and justice. All of these things are to be found in this blue book. So are Jasper Johns, (Lord) B, Princess Di, Lassie, Mahalia Jackson and John Cage.
Hot Poppies is a riotous, extravagant book, fresh from the hot-house, but it is also seductive and subversive. Five-line love lyrics, full of epigrammatic spark, intersperse vitriolic satires on American electoral antics. Britney Spears goes to war with the squirrels, `hefty as flying raccoons,' and James Tate's condemned man talks hurricanes and death row dinners with his warden. Rooke writes poetry with the glitter-seeking eye of a magpie, discovering unsettling beauties in his hoard of cultural detritus and post-millennial dread.
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