canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Grand Gnostic Central and Other Poems 
by Bryan Sentes
DCAD Enterprises, 1998 

Reviewed by Kathy Shaidle

In one section of Grand Gnostic Central, ("Budapest Studies - IV"), Bryan Sentes writes: 

The chest-high white-haired Swiss woman asked 
What is it? And I explained 
It's György Dózsa 
He led a peasant revolt 
And they crowned him 
With a red hot iron crown 
Made him a bronze throne 
And cooked him on it 
Then lined his followers up 
And made them eat him 

I read that wishing that more of his poems displayed that sort of searing clarity. According to his back-of-the-book biography, Sentes "divides his time between Europe and Montreal;" this may explain why these pieces sounded les s like poetry than like elevated-yet-empty Euro-style philosophising. Few of these poems really come alive; most were too prosaic or vague to inspire prolonged contemplation. Much intellectual name dropping, but not enough heart, soul or passion. 

There are a few interesting moments--I'm not sure even Sentes noticed that the reds and yellows of the "churchyard maples" in "A Québec" echo the likely colours of the "wretched lasagna" his speaker consumes in a previous line. Unfortunately, there aren't enough such moments to recommend Grand Gnostic Central

Kathy Shaidle's first poetry collection was shortlisted for the 1998 Governor General's Award. Among other things, she hosts the weblog, "where the religious rubber meets the pop culture road."







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