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Poetry by Louise Bak




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Louise Bak’s third collection of poetry continues to reinvent the English language as a sharp and challenging postmodern argot that combines terminology ranging from Cantonese and Mandarin to Latin, Korean, punk and Klingon. Bak’s poetry exploits the lyric’s foundational status as riddle rooted in metaphor and synecdoche by showing us how language itself consists of a string of riddle terms. In contrast to her previous books, the glossary appendix we have come to expect with her work has migrated to the site of the poems themselves, and now creep up from the bottom of the page like another representational tide of potential explanation and meaning.

Bak’s poems present a concentrated and often hyper-visual manner of conveying sexual and traumatic experience in a language of extreme metaphor. Many of her most tender poems are also her most violent. Syzygy, a term that means either conjunction or opposition, especially in reference to the moon and the sun, characterizes Bak’s explorations in language as simultaneously extreme in precision and intense in mediated opacity.

Reversals of gaze and gender are a favorite and effective tactic in Bak’s book. They are not always performed as a means of undermining an objectifying, ethnocentric position but often to celebrate positions of subjective and sexual ambiguity. Bak shows us how much there is to learn from figures who embody ambivalence, and she writes poems of gratitude for this state of linguistic and corporeal existence. For these people, who are the heroes of Bak’s book, and who function as the material truth behind the linguistic contortionism found in her poetry, she offers prayers of eternal residence in syzygy. Syzygy gives new poetic form to the rich language of a multi-racial sex-culture that defines our new century.


Critical Comment

“Syzygy is quintessential Bak: hypnotic, revelatory, and intoxicating. There must be some alchemical process behind poetry so metabolic, so lucently original. Language this sensuous and intelligent is to be celebrated.”

–Steve Venrigh

Author Louise Bak

Louise Bak author photo


Author Biography

Louise Bak is the author of three previous books, Tulpa (Coach House Books, 2002), Gingko Kitchen (Coach House Books, 1997) and emeighty (Letters, 1995). She works actively as a writer, editor, radio broadcaster, performance artist and sexuality counsellor. She has gained widespread attention as the co-host of Sex City, Toronto’s only radio show focused on intersections between sexuality and culture. Her performance work has appeared in numerous galleries, festivals and video collaborations and she hosts a salon series called The Box, which encourages communication across creative borders. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Toronto in SESE and Women’s Studies.

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Syzygy, Louise Bak, 132 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, Poetry, April 2011

ISBN: 978-1-897190-69-2 (paper)...$16.95

ISBN: 978-1-897190-70-8 (Bound)* ... $31.95

* This book is “perfect bound” with an add-on
hard cover, no dust jacket.

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