Louise Bak's third collection of poetry, Syzygy, continues to reinvent the English language as a sharp and challenging postmodern argot that combines terminology ranging from Cantonese and Mandarin to
Louise Bak's third collection of poetry, Syzygy, 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 exploit's 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.
View Biographical note
Louise Bak was born in Kingston, Ontario and has lived in Toronto since 1991. She works actively as a writer, editor, radio broadcaster, performance artist and sexuality counsellor. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies in North America. Her first book of poetry, emeighty, was published in a limited edition by Letters Bookshop in 1995. She is currently the guest art editor of the feminist culture magazine PlusZero. Aside from her literary (in)ventures, Louise can be heard every Tuesday morning as co-host of Sex City, Toronto's only morning program dedicated to ongoing cultural (s)excavation (CIUT-EM 89.5). Her performance work has appeared recently in the independent films Cheese (1995), Amidst Us (Total Eclipse Productions, 1996) and The WaIl ('997). She is co-originator of SLANT, Canada's first television magazine to explore Canadian-Asian art and culture, now in development. She is also completing her graduate work on the transperformative aspects of Cantonese opera in Canada at the University of Toronto.