Paul Vermeersch has reinvented the “new and selected.” Bringing together the very best of his poetry from the last quarter century with new and never-before-published works, Shared Universe is a sprawling chronicle of the dawn of civilizations, the riddles of 21st-century existence, and any number of glorious, or menacing, futures. 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 instead of chronological, and space is aesthetic rather than 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.
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You and the ice cream truck and the King
Cobra all exist in the same universe as the two-legged tortoise, the Star Queen Nebula,
and me. Eventually, there must be a story that involves all six of us: you will be driving the ice cream truck among the farthest stars in search of His Majesty King Cobra, despite his famous venom, despite his propensity to strike, and I will follow behind you riding the wounded tortoise, the front wheels of a plastic Batmobile glued to her shell as prostheses. These are the forms we will take when we encounter the Star Queen in her home,
the pillars of creation billowing from her head.
And there is King Cobra, coiling his long body around the pillars, emanating from her third eye as Uraeus from the forehead of a pharaoh.
“You have come here,” he says, “to learn what you already know: that you exist in the same universe as ice cream, Batmobiles,
and the act of mutilation.” New stars are fusing within the pillars, and within the stars, new-born elements: hydrogen, beryllium, carbon, iron . . .
“Use these to make an apple,” the serpent says.
“Or make it out of gold, it’s all the same.” And now a blind donkey arrives behind us, and a silvery porpoise, and an immense hypothetical mountain,
and we all nod knowingly, knowing what we know.