Jimmy McInnes’s A More Perfect [ is the type of book of poetry that I’m secretly jealous of. It’s the type of book of poetry I wish I could write, but fear that I am far too ineloquent and far too uneducated to write. It is the type of book of poetry that makes me remember my university rhetoric class and wish it was on the course list. It is the type of book of poetry that has the power to make rhetoric not only interesting and relevant, but an actual joy to read—and that’s quite the feat.
Several times now I’ve seen McInnes read from A More Perfect [ in its various stages of development, and undoubtedly, McInnes is one of the most engaging readers I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. He not only makes a show out of his readings, but he imbues what appears to be a random collection of signifiers with meaning—with life. What’s even more impressive than that, though, is the fact that McInnes’s work does not lose that sense of momentum, that life on the page.
As you do when you hear McInnes read from the work into a microphone, you become enraptured by the words laid out in front of you on the page. A cadence and rhythm swells in an engrossing way that propels you, the reader, forward. Just as you are mesmerized by McInnes’s way with words on a microphone, you are mesmerized by his way with words on the page. And for that, not only should McInnes be commended, but Jay MillAr, publisher at BookThug, ought to be commended for the way he brilliantly laid out the book. Just as McInnes was meticulous in his deconstruction of Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union,” MillAr was meticulous in laying out the book. The spacing of each word, each line, the contrast between grey text and black text, the use of white space, it all builds to make McInnes’s words reverberate and dance in your brain just as they do when he reads them on a microphone.
What makes A More Perfect [ so much more than an interesting experiment or something to be appreciated for its undoubtedly Herculean efforts, is its ability to stand on its own. I refused to watch Barack Obama’s speech that the text is based on until I had read through the book twice. And though, of course, I had a newfound appreciation for A More Perfect [ after I’d watched Obama’s speech, I was still fascinated by McInnes’s work beforehand. Not only does he brilliantly deconstruct the daunting rhetoric of “A More Perfect Union” and show just how much power words can have, but he creates a work independent of its master text that practically bursts forth off the page and goes beyond deconstructing rhetoric. A More Perfect [ is wholly its own text, something that is enjoyable to simply take in and appreciate for its cadence, for its rhythm, for its momentum. What elevates McInnes’s book into a work that ought to be applauded—what makes it borderline genius, really—is not only how McInnes plays with language, how he demonstrates that language is simultaneously so pliable and powerful, but the context in which he demonstrates his ability to do so effortlessly. When you finally do sit down and watch Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” and then re-read McInnes’s work—or, if you really want to blow your mind, sync the two with one another—you are in awe of McInnes’s craftsmanship and the way he so deftly deconstructs such the rhetoric of such a historic speech.
Jimmy McInnes has created a fascinating, infinitely rereadable book that not only stands on its own as a text, but becomes that much more fascinating when you compare his text to the one it is based on. And McInnes not only does a great deal of good by revealing the power of rhetoric—he makes rhetoric fun.
WILLIAM KEMP is a co-founder of words(on)pages and a dog enthusiast. His poetry has been published with In/Words and online with the Hart House Review. His non-fiction on video games has been published with First Person Scholar. You can find him @fakewillkemp.
JIMMY McINNES was born and raised on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula. His first chapbook,Begin Speech With, was released by Ferno House in the fall of 2013. His poetry has appeared in various journals, including This Magazine, ditch, The Puritan, Descant, and the Capilano Review Web Folio. His work has been shortlisted for the Great Canadian Literary Hunt and the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. He lives in Toronto, where he completed his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph, and is currently employed as a political hack. A More Perfect [ is his first book-length work of poetry. Connect with him on Twitter @JimmyMcInnes.
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