A Roundtable Review: Three Frames on Chris Hutchinson’s Jonas in Frames

by Jason Freure, E Martin Nolan, & Phoebe Wang

Jason Freure has published poems in Vallum, ditch,, and The Hart House Review. He was a contributor to The Show Thieves Anthology of Contemporary Montreal Poetry and wrote the short play The Castration of Apollo. He currently lives in Toronto.                                                                                                                                  E Martin Nolan writes poetry and non-fiction. He received his MA in the Field of Creative Writing from the University of Toronto in 2009. He’s a poetry and blog editor at The Puritan, where he also publishes interviews and reviews. His essays and poems have appeared in The Barnstormer, The Toronto Review of Books, The Toronto Quarterly, and Contemporary Verse 2. He teaches at the University of Toronto. You might know him as Ted.                                                                                                                                  Phoebe Wang is a poet, reviewer and educator whose work has appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, Canadian Literature, CV2, Descant, Grain, and The Malahat Review. She is a graduate of the U of T MA in Creative Writing program and her chapbook, Occasional Emergencies, appeared in 2013 with Odourless Press. She is currently Outreach Coordinator with The Puritan and a Teacher-in-Residence with Artscape Youngplace. More of her writing can be found at A Little Print.

Jonas in Frames
Goose Lane Editions/icehouse poetry
500 Beaverbrook Court, Suite 330
Fredericton, NB E3B 5X4

2014, 198 pp., $19.95, ISBN: 978.0.86492.435.3


Jason Freure’s First Take:

In Chris Hutchinson’s Jonas in Frames, simple acts form the background to an impending nervous breakdown. When Jonas orders a coffee, he falls into a tangent of political commentary worthy of Don Cherry. He proceeds out the door with a manic “tallyho!” and wonders why someone follows him shouting that he has forgotten his coffee and his umbrella. The source of Jonas’s distraction is the Golden Gate Bridge. Jonas’s thoughts don’t turn suicidal, but distraction threatens to kill him, as though his body is prepared to leap as soon as his mind stops paying attention. Hutchinson’s protagonist is the exemplar of ineptitude: ill-suited to employment, socially isolated, Romantic, and prone to moving out of town with every break-up and breakdown. Bored, neurotic, and prone to daydreaming, Jonas is built on the model of Baudelaire, though Baudelaire without talent or money.

Jonas In Frames is a portrait of a 30-year-old man for whom the word “career” is an “echo from a faraway universe.” Despite eschewing socio-economic ambition for a down-and-out odyssey between Vancouver, Brooklyn, San Francisco, and other cities, Jonas’s life is far from extraordinary, even in his own estimation. It’s the life of a transient line cook and sometimes writer. Jonas is lost and searching the continent for the kind of arts scene immortalized by The Velvet Underground and documentaries about punk. When Patti Smith declares New York City closed to the young and encourages them to move to Detroit, Jonas complains to himself that he is always too late. What Jonas never realizes is that the scene he’s looking for is a fiction, and that if it did exist he would not be invited.

Jonas is obsessed with the question of “where to be”. He “moves to New York and pretends another existence” and “pretend[s] to wait for a friend in front of a methadone clinic in a secret part of San Francisco”. Jonas never finds the underground he is looking for, but finds it traced instead in New York’s infrastructure:

When his subway car jostles or swerves through a curve, emitting its singular shriek, he knows it is the viola from his favourite Velvet Underground song he is hearing.

In New York, Jonas cannot reconcile the city’s image in the cultural imagination and the realities of living there. He’s disgusted by a lack of authenticity in New York and “hipster tourism” in his neighbourhood of Williamsburg. Hutchinson gives us no reason to believe that the earnestness of Jonas’s search for a bohemian scene makes him any more authentic, or that such a thing as authenticity exists. The frequency with which Hutchinson describes Jonas “pretending” to do or be something suggests that Jonas imposes his imaginary world on the real one, but that the end result is only more posing.

“Jonas is obsessed with the question of ‘where to be.’ ”

Jonas isn’t entirely the butt of Hutchinson’s joke, though. In a moment of self-discovery, Jonas realizes that a life of failure is no less a life than the hero narrative many imagine for themselves:

If there is a purpose to any of this it must be simply to continue without a purpose, to endure the discovery that failure is the essence of your identity, the essence of your sense of direction …

Jonas’s old friends drift away into careers, marriages, and families. In one chapter, Jonas expresses his horror over a proliferation of alien-like babies accompanying home-cooked meals and good wine in the homes of people once as adrift as him. In his later years, Jonas’s friends and romantic interests are as misfit and eccentric as him, but even these connections fall away. Even Jonas’s final moment is marked by failure. On an island in British Columbia after his American journey, Jonas distractedly chases a heron into the water. The final line of that chapter reads, “he tries to swim back”. Maybe Jonas drowns. Maybe he is simply left adrift where the text leaves him.

Hutchinson’s novel may be about the anxiety we feel in our 20s, but Jonas in Frames has more in common with Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential than Reality Bites. Jonas reads like one of the freak dish-pit dwellers Bourdain encounters in the lower rungs of New York’s kitchens, bouncing from restaurant to restaurant because he is otherwise unemployable. Jonas isn’t a misfit for his time or his place; he is misfit of life itself.

Responses

Phoebe Wang:

As you write, Hutchinson highlights the inauthenticity of a true self, a perfect artist’s bohemia, even the idea of the home. Jonas may not necessarily be a misfit for life, but a misfit for a Photoshopped urban life featured in catalogues from Crate & Barrel. I believe Hutchinson critiques notions of normality and abnormality, of success and failure, and, most of all, of madness and sanity. If Jonas has failed in some way, it’s only because he’s failed—due to his mania and depression—to live up to standards he had no part in setting up.

Your description of Jonas doesn’t address his mental illness, which makes me wonder if, as a reader, there are several ways to “diagnose” Jonas. Do you think that Hutchinson deliberately makes it ambiguous as to whether or not Jonas suffers from some form of depression (manic or otherwise), and what purpose might he have in doing so?

JF: I take Jonas’s medication and his psychiatric treatment at face value, but Hutchinson plays with Jonas’s psychiatry. There are the lab notes written from above the narrative, as if by the author, and the fact that his psychiatrist, Oliver, is a raver and a drug dealer who takes him to Phoenix. In Hutchinson’s hyperbolic prose, I think Jonas’s mental illness is an exaggeration of a commonly experienced anxiety.

E Martin Nolan:

The chapter “Scar” begins, “Jonas, your story is about a failed quest for stable forms of information—and about discovering failure as the purpose of your quest.” This is a typical moment of self-awareness in the book, but could also serve as instructions for how to read it. But even so, it could cut two ways at least. It could mean that if you are seeking a quest in this book, then be aware that the quest will not be completed. Or it could be less drastic: it could simply be, as you say, a description of the kind of dude who spends his life in different dish-pits. This is Jonas as a realist novel (or at least a novel with realist overtones).

Approaching Jonas as a novel in this vein requires that we wrestle with Jonas as a real person, as opposed to a cartoon character. How do you see Jonas in your imagination? Is he a comic or tragic figure? Is the book more sad or more funny?

JF: Sad, but not serious, like when you project an inappropriate emotion onto Wile E. Coyote and find the cartoonists cruel. Jonas does have moments of realist psychological discovery, such as when he imagines his mother in the Eastern Townships, how she died, and how Jonas was conceived. He is not restricted to the two dimensional rules of Looney Tunes characters in every episode, only in some.


E Martin Nolan’s First Take:

Hutchinson and Ice House have lied to us. This is not an ‘epic.’ It’s a picaresque novel. ‘Picaresque’ is often loosely used as an adjective to describe works with zany or episodic elements. Forrest Gump, for example. But according to Stuart Miller’s 1968 study The Picaresque Novel, Gump (the movie, at least) would be more properly considered a comedy—or perhaps a romance, or both—containing picaresque elements. “In comedy,” Miller writes, “the central image of life is man pitted against fortune.” He goes on: “in comedy and the romance, the hero is usually able to reconcile himself with Fortune in a stable marriage,” or in some other way that proves “Fortune has been conquered at last.”

In the picaresque, “there is no escape.” Miller claims Invisible Man is a proper picaresque novel because it is “an expression of a certain essential and unending chaos in life.” The same could be said of Jonas in Frames, and of its most obvious literary forbear, A Confederacy of Dunces. In fact, there is not nearly enough space here to express how accurately Hutchinson has hewn to Miller’s definition of the picaresque. But Miller has given us a succinct rundown of the major elements:

A picaresque novel is a novel with an episodic plot. The episodic plot, together with the Fortune pattern, and accident motif, and the rush of events pattern, projects a universe in a state of chaos.

Jonas in Frames is a rough ride, but worth it if you can take the battering.”

The “Fortune pattern” and “accident motif” refer to the main character’s, or picar’s, inability to control his or her own fate, as he or she is at the utter mercy of fortune and accident. In Jonas in Frames, the “Lab Notes” serve as a kind-of chorus in which Jonas is described as the “Subject X” of some metaphysical or literary experiment. They also attest to Jonas’s susceptibility to higher powers, as does his random continent-spanning roaming (we’re also told he suffers from “Temporal Hiccups”). The “rush of events pattern” refers to the absurdly rapid pace at which fortune and accident attack the picar. See the “Mr. Sock” episode in the novel for one example of just such a phenomenon.

Miller claims the proclivity of “accidents in the picaresque make the reader uneasy.” Likewise, Jonas in Frames is a rough ride, but worth it if you can take the battering. For Miller, the picaresque contains an “all-pervasive dance pattern” between chaos and order. Chaos wins out, forcing “the reader to pull the narrative together in his mind, much as a reader often is forced to see a poem as a pattern of images.” Hutchinson’s structuring of the novel, at the level of the book-as-a-whole and the line, is clearly the work of a veteran poet. The rapid chaotic movement of the plot is held together through image, repetition, and style. Yet the music and tone vary and evolve, revealing Hutchinson’s well-trained ear. The manic list chapter “Factotum,” for instance, follows the relatively calm “One Year Drifting Backwards and Forwards Through Time,” just as a symphony brings a rush after a slow, meditative movement.

At line-level, few stones remain unturned: “When he closes his eyes he can see Ursula’s face shimmering as if it were the residual impression staring at blue light leaves behind.” Dig how the stresses at the end of that sentence bring it home. And check out how this “rush of events” moment revels in the humorous possibilities of densely packed stresses:

you work as a Breakfast Chef, a Brunch Chief, a Prep Cook, a Dish Pig, a Deck Shoe Salesman, a Sloe Gin Taster, a Prison Wharf Rat, a Toast Monkey, a Shopping Cart Ninja, a Codfish Wrangler, and a Scuba Solicitor.

A poet’s work, no doubt.

It should be noted that Miller is but one authority on the picaresque. Where Miller claims chaos as the ruling ethos, in “Transnational Picaresque,” J. A. G. Ardila, following Claudio Guillen, claims that “picaresque novels are intrinsically dogmatic in their political portrayal of society.” But even Ardila’s claim applies to Jonas. Jonas is well aware of the financial world, deducing at one point that “only the rich have souls.” and at another preaching, “forget all that speculating, day-trading bullshit … I mean what exactly is produced by transferring digital figures from one computer to another, other than alienation and m-m-more goddamned d-d-d-d-debt?”

In Miller’s words, Jonas is “a reflection, albeit an exaggerated one, of the inner chaos so many people feel.” Thus his protests, dreams, loves, and failures do nothing to alter his reality. Jonas is not so much trickster as tricked upon. This produces great comic effect, but it is also sad. “The Heron,” near the book’s end—when, improbably, the book’s wild movement begins to cohere, and “a story threatens to take place”—is especially melancholy, and quite beautiful. The book until now has been disjointed, but always “between Nothing and Nowhere.” In “Blue Heron,” this essential fact is not changed, but the tone has:

What remains is a life that is lacking—and it has been a pack of lies anyhow. He has been an unwitting soldier in a proxy war. He has been trapped in a maze and abused by powers he barely comprehends.

But then there is the question of the “Lab Notes.” Are they real—is he really in a Philip K. Dick novel?—or are they a figment of Jonas’s imagination? Or is the whole thing within the experiment or within Jonas’s brain? Or perhaps it’s all within Jonas’ experimented-upon brain—and how could a reader ever tell the difference between those possibilities?

A reader cannot, and need not. We are given a number of dead ends instead. But they are wonderful, graffiti-filled dead ends, with dead pigeons in them that leave you heartbroken. I plan on going back there again, and reading it aloud.

Responses

Phoebe Wang:

Other genres besides the picaresque are episodic—TV shows, for instance, or epics. I wonder what made you decide that Jonas in Frames showed more features of the picaresque than the mock epic, especially since you mentioned you’d like to read it aloud, as The Odyssey often was. Like Odysseus, Jonas confronts many monsters and obstacles, mostly of his own making, and seems perpetually on a quest for a distant home.

Do you think it was Hutchinson’s aim to try to fit this novel into one genre, or does he combine and draw from a myriad of genres (novel, epic, picaresque, poetry, lab report)? If so what could be his purpose for doing so (other than to baffle readers and reviewers)?

EMN: I don’t think Hutchinson meant to fit this book into one genre. You could certainly make the case for it as a novel, as mock epic, and so forth. But at the same time, and from what I can surmise through the research I was able to do, the picaresque is already a hybrid form that uses elements of the realist novel and the epic, but uses them in order to achieve the opposite effect. The picaresque unsettles meaning where the epic or novel seeks to coalesce meaning. So yes, the goal would be to baffle readers (although that does not preclude entertaining or enlightening them—perhaps just the opposite). The picaresque worldview holds that chaos is supreme, and so bafflement would be the expected reaction. To me, that fits Jonas very well.

“Jonas is not so much trickster as tricked upon.”

At the same time, reading the book this way totally plays into my own pre-existing interest in how poets play certainty and uncertainty against each other. So maybe the book is simply allowing me to read it that way. For instance, I wonder if the tonal shift near the book’s end (especially the Heron episode) doesn’t compromise the book’s picaresque credibility by giving it something that at least feels like a conclusion (whether anything is actually concluded remains an open question for me).

Jason Freure:

If I were to criticize this book for one thing above all others, it would be its genre-bending pretense. In 2014, poetry can be formatted as prose without posing as a novel, and novels have always had room for lyric registers. Hutchinson couldn’t make the largely arbitrary decision of how to categorize his text, but I imagine  that retailers will put Jonas in Frames on the fiction shelves, where books are easier to sell.

You quote, “Picaresque novels are intrinsically dogmatic in their political portrayal of society.” You then cite one of Jonas’s criticisms of wealth.  Jonas interprets his failed careers as a political injustice. Can you read his failed relationships politically, too?

EMN: Hmmm. They could be. That quotation, I think now, challenges the claim that Jonas is a picaresque. Politics are definitely present throughout the book, but one has to wonder if the book is political or “dogmatic.” Jonas’s chronic un- and under-employment, as well as his political rants, could be seen as sincere parodies of society, but could just as easily be parodies of the Occupy Wall Street arguments he’s making. But I’m not sure I see his relationships as political—that would be a stretch, unless I’m missing something there. If they are political, then the whole book is political. If the book’s primary effect is to create a sense of chaos, and if that can be said to be political, then maybe the frequency of his relationship failures can be said to contribute to the chaos, and thus be political.


Phoebe Wang’s First Take

After seeing the same old woman pass by in your neighbourhood day after day, her presence becomes imbued with special significance—as though she might be a harbinger of some kind of luck or fate. Our lives are unique not only because of the particularities of experience, but because of how we derive unique meanings from a first meeting with a loved one or from the most mundane occurrence. Poets select and distill these moments into a thick brew of symbolic signification. Modern poetry is difficult because of its heightened language and form, but also, a poem presents a kind of cosmos or system that is deeply individualistic. The poet may not always be interested in whether or not that system is comprehensible. As Chris Hutchinson writes in his novel, Jonas in Frames: “There are worlds within worlds, words within words, woes within woes.”

Jonas in Frames is Hutchinson’s first novel, but fourth book. His three previous works of poetry include Unfamiliar Weather (2005), Other People’s Lives (2009), and A Brief History of the Short-Lived (2012). Much of his poetry explores the thralls and pitfalls of modern urban life, and the limits of one’s subjectivity in an obsessive, information-riddled, speed-addicted culture. Moreover, Hutchinson’s speakers are often transient creatures and serial selves, as he writes in A Brief History: “Echoing rings of self-/ location—”, a line that could also frame Jonas’s wandering self and his inner circus of alternatingly lucid and manic states. This most recent book of poems contains the most overlapping themes with the novel, which has been called a novel-in-verse. It’s worthwhile to consider what narrative elements Hutchinson was able to use in Jonas in Frames which he could not in Other People’s Lives or A Brief History.

“ ‘There are worlds within worlds, words within words, woes within woes.’ ”

The relationship between these works is analogous to the one between Plath’s novel The Bell Jar and her famed collections of poetry, The Colossus and Ariel. While The Bell Jar is tethered to a clear narrative and timeframe, Plath’s distinctive imagery and visceral diction, her childhood memories, and her consciousness of the animal sexuality beneath polite façades are present in all of her writing. Hutchinson is not a confessional poet, but he uses elements of the confessional, as well as the surreal and the epic. Each of these modes offers Hutchinson a way into a self fragmented by mental illness. Through the confessional, the speaker purges and systematizes the warring voices that invade the mind. The surreal, Rimbaud-like language perfectly captures his bizarre flashes of vision and his medicated, druggy days. Finally, for someone like Jonas, whose “crying feels like dying,” and for whom “a pitiless power attends the storms of electrons embodied in the mystery of your nerves,” getting through the day necessitates an invocation of the muses:

O Heavenly Muse, what fun! May you have epilepsy, or cerebral palsy? Is this how your story ends, having never begun? You are under attack from invisible enemies. Something has short-circuited, the movie of your life all jitter, stutter and skip.

From a mélange of idiosyncrasies, personal totems and running jokes, Hutchinson ferments his myth of the self: “There are countless bits of information that need to be processed, interrogated, vindicated, or simply ignored.” It’s not necessarily his own self and life that are the basis of Jonas in Frames, though there are autobiographical “bits” both included and ignored. There’s a compulsive patterning in the way Hutchison constructs Jonas’s selfhood, whose inner monologue deconstructs his persona at the same time. Recalling his father’s improbable claims of having smoked opium with Ezra Pound’s wife, “Jonas knows that all these stories are self-originating myths.”  Jonas sees the transparency of these “subjective distortions,” yet later is “afflicted by the very same sins, and the Voice.” Jonas’s selfhood, unlike that of someone sound of mind, is framed as transgressive and pathological, as though his self-perpetuating myths and stories are both the source and the result of his lack of wellness.

“Through the confessional, the speaker purges and systematizes the warring voices that invade the mind.”

Like Stephen Dedalus in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Hutchinson’s Jonas is acutely aware that the self amalgamates both everything and nothing. This modern anxiety and malaise are, for me, the most unlikeable aspects of the novel. Jonas’s social ineptitude, his self-pity and self-indulgences, his failed relationships and his puzzling attitudes toward women feel overfamiliar and hackneyed, though it’s clear that Hutchinson’s portrait is partly a parody: “the tragedy of his life is that no one has forgiven him,” he writes of Jonas. Hutchinson plays on the reader’s exasperation and affection, our eyes rolling at another one of Jonas’s near escapes. Our feelings of sympathy and irritation bring into relief the fragility of the psychologically and emotionally impaired—Jonas’s setbacks have the scale of tragedy while his moments of joy feel like triumphs of the spirit.

Hutchinson’s language and use of violent juxtapositions contribute to the carsick feeling of Jonas’s inner voice. The exclamatory sentences and the feverish descriptions intensify the emotion of each short scene while the reader tries exhaustingly to locate Jonas’s voice. Hutchinson also blurs the line between his own poetic voice and that of Jonas’s by littering the novel with lines and titles from A Brief History. The novel is also inter-spliced with lines from Wordsworth, Pound, popular songs, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Blake, Derrida, Federico Fellini, Lowell, Shakespeare, J.D. Salinger, Plath, Milton and Don McKay, among others. The effect is an impressive poetic cacophony that reveals how much of literature is a dissonant and clamorous recycling of voices. It’s possible to see Hutchinson recycling his own voice, salvaging images from his poems and placing them in his novel and changing their meaning through shifting their context. For instance, in the poem “Canadian Psycho” from A Brief History, the speaker laments:

When I awoke I discovered
My identity had been concocted
By something other than me.
Trapped in an upscale-hipster
Disney version of Bohemia
I could almost feel whatever
It was I thought they were
Going to allow me to become—

And again, in Jonas in Frames:

The scene—so Jonas has gleaned from discussions he’s eavesdropped on at various cafés during his visits to the other side of the BQE—eventually fled the Lower East Side and relocated here, just over the Williamsburg bridge. But today, much of this neighbourhood, to everyone’s amazement and horror, is an upscale-hipster Disney version of Bohemia.

It’s a little like hearing the same joke retold by a crazy uncle years later, but the real joke’s the idea that any of us are allowed our own projections. It’s possible to see Jonas in Frames as a reprocessing, recycling, and repackaging of the themes present in Hutchinson’s poetry. However, I find in many cases I prefer the tension present in the poetic line, and how the critique of this “landscape of wooden courtesy” is deftly interwoven with the speaker’s self-disgust at maturing into a “A wooden figurine?/ A tourist/ Without a GPS?” whereas in prose, the tone is indistinguishable from many similar complaints about gentrification. Yet this is also Hutchinson’s experiment with Jonas in Frames—to find the poetic in soulless cities and broken spirits, and to reveal the prosaic in abbreviated artistic attempts and even briefer lives.

Responses

E Martin Nolan: I’m glad you brought up both the literary references and mental illness. For me, both contribute to the unsettlement at the core of the book. Allusion is used so liberally that it’s hard to tell if the intent is to parody, to show respect, or if it is simply blurted out. That would go for the allusions to canonical works like The Odyssey, A Confederacy of Dunces, to “the unendurable fact of Sylvia Plath” or to the illusions to Hutchinson’s own past work. I would venture that the self-references hue more toward parody, while the allusions to past great works are more playful and random. In any case, though, it’s hard to call, and that, I think, is the key to the book. The same would go for mental illness. Surely, Jonas is not well. But is he not well in a realistic way, or is he stuck in a sci-fi paradigm? If you assume the former, then this a pretty damn sad book, with all the jokes rendered depressing because they are all directed at a sick person. On the other hand, if Jonas is actually a comic character out of a Vonnegut-esque sci-fi realm, who actually teleports and suffers from “temporal hiccups,” then it’s more of a rollicking, fun ride. I’m not sure. But I see your point about the advantages of Hutchinson’s poetry over this novel. The same uncertainty I enjoy when reading Jonas can also become old before it even begins; or its effect, being totally focused on chaos, can come off as simply an arbitrary mess. It’s a murky divide.

Were there any moments when you were really digging Jonas as poetry? Any music there that really stood out to you as being well composed? What was your overall impression of the poetics at work here?

PW: Yes, there were many places where Hutchinson’s prose has the density and compactness of poetry. He also uses quick juxtapositions, lists, and vivid imagery. This passage is a good example of that poetic prose:

He is sick of this sham spring, this malingering season, and these gaps of missing time. Soon more rain will come—all the seconds in a day turning to splashing notes, clear arteries pulsing down every windowpane—and it will saturate the roots of the holly trees and turn the ripening earth to black mud.

I could practically hear the enjambments when I read these and many other passages.

Back in 2001, Robyn Sarah and John Unrau had an exchange over the difference between poetry and chopped-up prose in Books in Canada, which is worth revisiting with regard to your question. Hutchinson has an unmistakable sense of rhythm, which he uses to convey Jonas’s rambling, high-strung, yet hypersensitive state of mind. Sarah calls it “the pulse,” and points to alliteration, assonance, half-rhymes, and musical elements as evidence that a poem is a poem and not chopped-up prose. But Jonas himself thinks, “Fuck poetry,” which I take to mean that what the book resists is not necessarily poetic elements, but the whole ‘project’ of poetry that constructs a highly personalized self-myth out of an individual experience of reality.

Jason Freure: Jonas is a character suffering from depression and other mental health issues, and Hutchinson focuses on the exasperating characteristics of mental illness that alienate sufferers from their family and friends.   As a result, there is no sympathetic space for Jonas.

You picked out, “the tragedy of his life is that no one has forgiven him.” I largely missed that line. What has Jonas done that requires forgiveness? Is it because he hasn’t done anything that needs forgiving that makes Hutchinson’s tragic register parodic?

PW: I explain to my high school students that there’s a difference between the Greek sense of tragedy and the tragedy of, say, their broken iPhones. I think that Hutchinson is very much modeling—and yet mocking—Jonas’s tragic downfall and flaw in the Greek sense. He is always dogged with the feeling of having committed some terrible crime of tragic proportions, yet the tragedy isn’t that his world hasn’t forgiven him, but that he isn’t able to forgive himself for his imagined or real flaws. Hutchinson may indeed be parodying elements of tragedy, but I think in the classical sense, tragedy also involves a lot of foolishness and arrogance. Tragodia, in Greek, after all, means he-goat song, which is pretty funny in itself. It’s believed that tragedies were originally songs sung during the festival of Dionysus, the god of madness, ecstasy, and wine. Or that singers competed with each other for a goat. Maybe tragedy and comedy aren’t necessarily in opposition, but merely different forms of expressing the inanity of humanity.

 


Jason Freure has published poems in Vallum, ditch,, and The Hart House Review. He was a contributor to The Show Thieves Anthology of Contemporary Montreal Poetry and wrote the short play The Castration of Apollo. He currently lives in Toronto.                                                                                                                                  E Martin Nolan writes poetry and non-fiction. He received his MA in the Field of Creative Writing from the University of Toronto in 2009. He’s a poetry and blog editor at The Puritan, where he also publishes interviews and reviews. His essays and poems have appeared in The Barnstormer, The Toronto Review of Books, The Toronto Quarterly, and Contemporary Verse 2. He teaches at the University of Toronto. You might know him as Ted.                                                                                                                                  Phoebe Wang is a poet, reviewer and educator whose work has appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, Canadian Literature, CV2, Descant, Grain, and The Malahat Review. She is a graduate of the U of T MA in Creative Writing program and her chapbook, Occasional Emergencies, appeared in 2013 with Odourless Press. She is currently Outreach Coordinator with The Puritan and a Teacher-in-Residence with Artscape Youngplace. More of her writing can be found at A Little Print.

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