Review of Jamie Sharpe's ANIMAL HUSBANDRY TODAY

Jamie Sharpe. ECW Press, $18.95 paperback (96p) ISBN: 978-1-77041-106-7

In many ways Animal Husbandry Today feels like an oddities/antique shop. The 96 pages are filled with accountants, bankers, wet alphabets, and the dead figures of Caravaggio and others. Jamie Sharpe seems referential by nature; meaning is dictated by the items which inhabit the physical world. What plot can be found is often subsequent to someone’s occupation or the year they live in. Accuracy, usually mathematically precise, is another uncommon element Sharpe uses to shape the elements introduced.

 From Two Trains pg 21:  

There are seventeen apples in a tree. 
If you carve your name into the tree’s trunk, 
How many apples do you have? 
A plane crashes on the border of two countries.

Every item has a given number, but I had difficulty finding any correlation between those numbers and other numbers. At times poems read like mathematical word problems, which was funny. I should mention by now the book is funny, in a wry, heady way. Multiple poems are structured like jokes with a setup payoff structure—stanzas are often purposely routine, or overly flowery only then to be contradicted or injected with something unexpected or a bit of low-culture. Example, from Brought To You By pg 28:

In the friscalating dusk we walk, 
in the shadow of our nation’s parks, 
in the shadow of one-hundred-year 
evergreens, back to tomorrow’s life. 

The $1.19 nacho cheese chalupas 
were also excellent.

Sharpe acknowledges the idea of opposites and contradictions here in Knowing is Nowhere To Run on pg 38:  

Our mathematical world, 
derived from binary opposition, 

necessitates every problem is 
counterbalanced by solution.

The correlations and opposites are interesting and most of the time this setup payoff method works well but other times it can be a little overly simple and I eventually began to expect the last line twists.  

Animal Husbandry Today seems like a book of best of’s or selected poems. (Whether it is or is not I’m not sure.) List poems like Increase Your Web Hits With These Secret Phrases are indicative of the work as a whole. There is an overarching un-similarity from image to image, poem to poem. There is humor in the abstract jumping between dissimilitudes but I got no sense of building to something, or development, as the book progresses. Again though, that is not to say that there aren’t some really good poems in here. There are, and my favorite, Sun Block Days, is tucked in back.

It’s difficult to steam roll through Animal Husbandry Today. Instead I would recommend leaving the book out, reading a couple poems at your leisure and repeating. (October 2012)

Purchase Animal Husbandry Today HERE.

Reviewer bio: Wyatt Sparks lives in Chicago. His echap As We All Change is forthcoming in 2013 from Love Symbol Press.