At what point do we give up and surrender to our desires, even if they end up killing us.
The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory: Poems by Chris Banks is the poet’s fourth full collection of poetry. Banks received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Guelph, before moving on to complete a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing from Concordia University and later a Bachelor of Education from the University of Western Ontario. His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada.
I found The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory a pleasing and nostalgic collection of poetry. Banks by his references is a few years younger than I am but where our historical and cultural references cross brings back a multitude of memories. For Banks, it’s the disappearance of arcades and for me the loss of red brick roads. We recall music on tape, particular mix tapes that allowed us to disappear into the music for a while rewinding back to a moment and listening to it over and over again. Today “kids” dive into the stream of music. We slipped so deeply into the electronic age that Banks wants a reboot. Gone is the day of getting our music information from Rolling Stone magazine. In a dusty corner somewhere is our old denim or leather vest filled with band patches and safety pins. We shared the scout meetings in church basements and eight track tapes. We now live in a world controlled by smartphones and leveled out by Big Pharma. Now that we are old enough, we long for the days of our youth. We, like Banks, reflect on the good memories and conveniently forget about the air pollution, leaded gas, phosphate detergents, and Pol Pot.
The other side of The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory is linked to science, history, and literature. The science is good varying from chemistry to quantum mechanics. A particularly good literary pairing was “Wordsworth Versus the Cloud.” The poet seamlessly plays on “Tintern Abbey” in a modern retelling the poem; It was my favorite in the collection. In history, Banks mentions the success of the Roman armies. Their superiority was in the infrastructure they built not in their proficiency in killing. There is also the sad story of Martha at the Cincinnati Zoo.
We live in a world that is much different than the world we grew up in. And complicating that change is a world we did not expect. We live in a world where “natural flavour trumps nature every time.” It is a world that does not seem genuine — “Authenticity requires time most people would rather spend at Walmart.” Banks writes a collection well connected to very late Boomers and early Gen Xers. We lived in a time when we thought things would keep getting better and we would not get older. Sometimes we forget those days; Banks reminds us of them.
Available September 5, 2017 from ECW Press