canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Ladonian Magnitudes
by Bryan Sentes
DC Books, 2006

Reviewed by Gerardo Del Guercio

The twenty first century has finally encountered its first Canadian James Joyce and Ezra Pound in Bryan Sentes’ second book of poetry Ladonian Magnitudes. Sentes’ transports the reader from the ancient Greek city of Troy, to Ezra Pound’s grave in Tuscan, and across Canada by mixing his text with a variety of short and long poems, and a series of prose entries. Poems like “The Intersection” are filled with street names such as “L’Esplanade” (1) and “Villeneuve” (2) along with iconic urban features including “three-storey walkups” (8) found only in Montreal’s Plateau district where Montreal’s artistic community first started and continues to strive.

By conflating a Walt Whitman type free-verse along with modern literary techniques mastered by Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Hilda Doolittle, and E.E. Cummings, Bryan Sentes moves Canadian poetry from the periphery to its own separate place in the literary canon by morphing the typography to give himself an amusing poetic persona that both amuses and dazzles the reader.

Ladonia, a one kilometer square territory in southeast Sweden, was founded by Swiss artist Lars Vilks in 1996 to protect his “Mimis” from destruction by local authorities. Sentes morphs the typography of his text to protect it from certain traditional literary conventions such as iambic pentameter that tend to give a poem a predetermined meaning. Sentes’ innovative verse style gives his poetry a multi-layered feature that creates a novel way of interpreting verse. 

In “20:02 20.02.2002”, Sentes places the words “Vegetable” (9),”Deciduous” (10), “Mammalian” (11), “Montrealer” (12), and “Inside” (13) on single lines to morph and give them more weight and emphasis than they would carry had they been placed in a complete sentence. A few pages later Sentes inverts the stanzas of “20:02 20.02.2002” the poem carries a far different connotation to demonstrate that poetry has an insular meaning that defies specific ordering or even syntax.

Magnifying and shedding new light on the typography of postmodern Canadian poetry, Bryan Sentes’ Ladonian Magnitudes gives Canadian writing a much more global scope than is normally allotted to it. A witty and complex text, Bryan Sentes’ second book of poetry is a valuable addition to contemporary literary studies that not only entertains its audience but also presents a convincing argument that a poem’s meaning lies in its form and word usage that distinguish it from any other art form. 

Readers intending to purchase Ladonian Magnitudes at a bookstore or check it out of a library will find it one of the most worthwhile text published in the past several years.






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