by Shane Rhodes
Book DescriptionOne of the first lines of X, Shane Rhodes' sixth book of poetry, is a warning: "this book of verse demands more of verse, this book demands perversity." He goes on to write:
This book is about where I live, a place still settling, still making the land—law by law, arrest by arrest, jail by jail—its own
Heed this warning. In X, Rhodes takes poetry from the comfortable land of the expected to places it has seldom been. Writing through the detritus of Canada’s colonization and settlement, Rhodes' writes poems to and with Canada's original documents of finding and keeping. He writes a poem to each of the eleven numbered treaties (the Post Confederation Treaties between many of Canada's First Nations and the Queen of England)—he writes to the fonts he finds in Treaty 5, the river he finds in Treaty 6, and the chemicals he finds in Treaty 8. Rhodes' writes poems to and with the Indian Act.
Beyond the treaties, Rhodes writes formal poetry using Indian status registration forms. He writes to the memory of Oka. He writes to the Government of Canada's Apology for the Indian Residential School System. He writes to the procreating beavers he finds in the Royal Charter of the Hudson Bay Company. X culminates in "White Noise," a long poem grown from Canada's collective rants, threats, cries and shouts in response to the Idle No More protests and the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence.
Through out the book, Rhodes surprises with what poetry and art can actually do with the seemingly unsalvageable and un-poetic that surrounds us. The design of X is also exhilarating. Not only is the book reversible—it must be read in two directions—but every page bursts with design, interference and thought.
X sings a new national anthem for Canada, an anthem stripped of patriotic fervor that truly sings of the past many would rather forget and the current state of Indigenous/settler race relations in Canada, an anthem fit for "a land held by therefores, herebys and hereinafters."