Banks’s stunning new collection, exploring bold frontiers
“Poetry is an act of mischief,” Theodore Roethke famously once said, and Chris Banks takes this as his credo in Midlife Action Figure. His subject matter ranges from the familiar to the surreal, taking readers through poems that are both wondrous and strange, heartfelt and humorous, controlled and impatient. Whether calling a tree “an anthology of leaves” or describing time as “a Fisher-Price View-Master of ‘first kisses’ and ‘no return’ policies,” Banks approaches writing as if anything might make for alarming, strange, and dizzying verse.
Banks knits together wit with wildly inventive imagery as he follows his poems outside convention where they play with stolen matches. Capable of both deep introspection and the quick turn of phrase, he places his tongue firmly in his cheek as he looks for a measure of human wonder in this intermission between TED Talks and the apocalypse. Midlife Action Figure is a tour de force for anyone looking for that rare book that is as exciting as it is provocative, showcasing both pathos and humor, while it explores what it means to be alive in the early 21st century.
Chris Banks is a Canadian poet and author of four previous collections of poems, most recently The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory (ECW Press 2017). His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, and Prism International, among other publications. He lives and writes in Waterloo, Ontario.
“‘The laboratory of aesthetics / these days is really about mischief / and surprise’ writes Chris Banks in this collection of cheeky, pointed dicta on everything from how to survive an emergency to enduring a job interview, amid surreal admissions that the speaker has a ‘minor crush on Saturn's moons’ or possibly suffers a ‘slow leak’ as each year his ‘heart grows an extra ring.’ Midlife Action Figure is a book of solid poems from the centre of existing, through deep space and the places in the mind like ‘Matryoshka dolls’ that endlessly nest into their own allusiveness, returning with a yield of essential observations and imperatives for the continuance of the earth.” — Catherine Owen, award-winning author of Designated Mourner
“‘My spirit guide is a scarecrow’; ‘guilt is everyone’s personal gulag’; ‘can I coat-check this malaise?’; ‘death is classically trained’: Chris Banks builds poems out of short sentences that are like photons, little packets of energy full of aphoristic punch and surprise. He delights in the swings of imagination, in the way every next image or idea can plow new ground even as it alters the meaning and feel of what has preceded it. The result is a constant state of euphoria, an ongoing demonstration of the swerve and swirl of human consciousness. ‘A river is a correspondence course’ — as with so many lines here, my recognition that I’ve never thought of it that way is followed immediately by the sensation that there’s no other way to see it, that I am being shown the truth.” — Bob Hicok, award-winning poet and author of Elegy Owed