“Replete with deep thinking and reflection, revealing the poet’s wide-ranging intellect, eclectic mind, and penchant for sharp satire.” — Publishers Weekly on Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy
Shared Universe is a sprawling chronicle of the dawn of civilizations, the riddles of 21st-century existence, and whatever glorious or menacing futures await us. Selected poetry collections are traditionally organized according to the books in which the poems first appeared, but these poems are arranged by prophecy and mythos, corresponding to the human (or trans-human) body, or as dictated by animal speech. In this universe, time is thematic rather than chronological, and space is aesthetic instead of voluminous. Here, alongside popular favourites, are recently unearthed gems and visionary new poems that reveal the books hidden within the books of one of Canada’s most distinctive and imaginative poets.
“In Shared Universe, Paul Vermeersch embarks on a quest for wisdom in a post-real world. Commandeering whatever icons he can dig out of the rubble— cartoon heroes, crank prophecies, goofball rules and revelations—he insists we can learn from even the tackiest guides to enlightenment. But while we ponder these make-believe disciplines, he hits us with aching threnodies for earth and its vanished denizens. His quest is antic, on a field of despair. Are we at a carnival, or a wake? There are precedents for such a wacky gravitas: think of David McFadden, Stuart Ross, F. in Beautiful Losers. But Vermeersch is his own man, with a full-tilt vision and a voice to go with it. Rage, and a cascade of zany tricks. Hee-haw and kaddish. This is a guide like no other—a sly, heartbroken primer for desperate times.” — Dennis Lee
“Shared Universe is an encounter with the primordial, the enduring, and the not-yet. The guide is a poet in the fullness of his gifts. Each of Vermeersch’s lines is tempered with an imagination where play is gravity and bond, manifest in the materials of his quarter-century devotion to recovering the deadened imagination from the world’s blunt instruments. The rarity in this work is that it reads like a single epic where the poet holds the missteps of the known world in one hand as he regards the overabundance of the mysteries surrounding it in the other. The result is a marvellous syncopation of poetry’s most essential quality, angled toward the new challenges of the 21st century: how to hold in language what escapes us. Listen close, and you might hear the applause of worlds far away from here.” — Canisia Lubrin
“The essence of Shared Universe condenses itself, for me, in lines from “I Feel Love: Hi-NRG”: “I feel love for the story that / loops back on itself, that loops back on itself / and is told anew, that is told anew and sees / its heroes transformed and its Empress renamed.” Paul Vermeersch’s poetry is transfiguration dreaming its new figures in a hopefulness conjured by beautiful, dynamic verse. This “new and selected poems” is in fact a metamorphosis itself, an altogether new work, because here the book as a whole is the unit of composition. Vermeersch has arranged and added to a career’s poetic venturing to bring out as never before his poetry’s thrust toward the future, its transhuman and newly human move toward total inclusiveness and the imagining of possibility.” — A. F. Moritz
“Poetry and futurism are both visionary genres, but they don’t often go hand in hand. Unless you’re Paul Vermeersch.” — CBC’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers
Paul Vermeersch is a poet, multimedia artist, creative writing professor, and literary editor. He is the author of several poetry collections, including the Trillium Award-nominated The Reinvention of the Human Hand and, most recently, Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph, for which he received the Governor General’s Gold Medal. His poems have been translated into Polish, German, Spanish, and French and have appeared in international anthologies. He teaches at Sheridan College and is the founding editor of Buckrider Books, an imprint of Wolsak & Wynn Publishers Ltd. He lives in Toronto.
“Vermeersch’s poetry is tremendously rich … The poems, always perceptive, sometimes achingly sad, and sometimes achingly funny — are real poems. That is, they are written with an ear for the sound of our language: for the basic iambic of English, for the drama of emotion and wit, for the richly suggestive possibilities of pun and colloquial usage.” — The Fiddlehead