Un is a brief and fervently idealistic collection of poems about entropy and human extinction. It is a bleak book, written in a language that is almost English, a tongue that owes more to the near nonsense of Dennis Lee's children's poetry than it does to the eloquent long-line verse of his Civil Elegies. In Un, Lee uses the negative prefix as a fulcrum for "the wordy desyllabification of evil"--he disassembles the English language, dissects the Zeitgeist, writes a half-articulate humanism of despair:
hums. You even wear gene
disguises. Little anti-
threnodic peeps, tell nix in the slurry:
thing matters, no
matter how nano the known.
This is bpNichol-derived lexical play put to an urgent use. Sometimes it is marred by the innate banality of contemporary neologism--Lee occasionally drags in the sterile verbiage of the Internet, a lexis that has so far managed to repulse any attempt at poetry. Often, the poems simply sound wrong: few of the poems in Un can be spoken. On the page, however, Lee's disjointed syllables are menacing and unparaphraseable. In Un, Lee tries to see beyond the fog of the present, something few poets even try to do. Classicists won't be happy with Lee's descent into near-sense, but Un is nonetheless an important book of bad tidings. --Jack Illingworth