Beach’s poetry plays with Bond myths

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June 29, 2013

The Last Temptation of Bond
By Kimmy Beach
U of A Press, 114 pages, $19.95

Reviewed by Cornelia Hoogland

Pop-culture heroes such as James Cagney and James Bond are Kimmy Beach’s passion. In her new book of poetry, Beach facilitates her readers’ insider looks into Bond’s vast and colourful life: into his rooms; “Night[s] In The Life;” and into the Bond props of guns, alcohol and women. Alternately, she places Bond outside the safe confines of his cinematic/Internet world, into that of the sometimes narrator, One, and her sidekick, The Other. Or she moves into an alternate reality–the domestic (human) world that Bond hasn’t (until Beach) led.

The sections in which we meet Mrs. and the twins suggests the books’ underpinnings in Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a book that considers the dualities of Christ as saviour and human being (and as referenced in Beach’s title). Just as easily, Beach drops One into Bond-type scenarios that (seem to) absorb her. One tells Bond near the end of the book, “You really should know how often you didn’t make me come.”

As a publication within U of A Press’s Robert Kroetsch poetry series, the book’s freedom of movement among genres and voices honours Kroetsch, who would have appreciated both the elevation and the reduction (but not the demise, Bond is eternal) of the cultural hero. The cover (Robert0 Conte’s angel) is stunning. Alan Brownoff should be in the running for Alberta’s Book Awards in book design–and The Last Temptation of Bond in the poetry category.

From the start, through highly detailed second-person, as well as third-person prose, Beach pulls her readers into the world of Bond and his women. Another strategy, dramatic scripts (including stage directions), allows Beach to bring Bond the cultural hero into the living room of One and The Other, the fictional women who watch Bond movies and who ultimately laser Bond up the middle. This play among fictional characters into what the reader understands as “the present” or perhaps even “real life” is effective. For instance, One’s high antics imperative: “Don’t pause,” is dismissed by The Other who pauses the movie and grabs two mini-glazed doughnuts. These gals will eventually be joined by a cast of Bond women who serve as the Greek chorus at Bond’s demise.

The power of this book is its confident enjoyment within fictional and imaginative realities. Beach’s writing aims to give readers as direct an experience of its content as possible; often, it accomplishes this by thrusting the readers–an implied “you”–into the over-the-top scenes. “On the vanity next to the bed is a brown box . . . Pick it up and carry it to the edge of the bed. Lift the brass clasp.”

The book calculatedly engages its readers on an experiential level and demands readers’ responses not only to its content but to the ways the content is delivered. Its light touch is always tongue in cheek; these are never real people, but, rather, highly entertaining cinematic fantasies. Very sexy.

Cornelia Hoogland’s latest book is Woods Wolf Girl (Wolsak and Wynn, 2011). “Sea Level” is forthcoming with Baseline Press.

 

 

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