There are a number of younger Canadian poets who are doing exciting, innovative work: Sonnet L’Abbe, Elizabeth Bachinksy, Sarah Dowling, a.rawlings and Sandra Alland spring to mind, but few poets–actually not just in Canada but anywhere–few female poets are doing concrete/visual work. Enter Sharon Harris who recently published Avatar, a pataphysical exploration of I Love You, springing from bp Nichol’s concrete I Love You poems and blending her visual and poetic arts.

There are I believe, 26 versions of the I Love You poem, which many Canadians will recognize from bp Nichol (and if you don’t then we need go and pounce on Gary Geddes and everyone who is tampering with Canadian poetry/literature text books!). In the age of the aloof it’s refreshing to see a poet explore positivity (a further Nichol echo: his incredible energy–much of it seemingly positive and endlessly innovative.) I love the fact that this is a book that collects ways of creating “I love You.” Screw Oprah and Dr. Phil and the eerie weirdos who have perpetrated The Secret on us. Why can’t poets do something fun with positive? Positive thinking is such a taboo in the poetry/academic world, and yes, I know it’s more about the simplistic representations. Still, I’m all for taking back the positive from the school of self-help.

Here is a quote from Harris in a recent interview on a site I had never heard of until today called Lucid Forge:

I intentionally set out to make art and write about altruistic love. It’s a topic not often discussed outside of religious contexts; for better AND for worse, we’re quickly losing our religions. For example: I would love to take my kids to a church where their souls would be nurtured and they would learn to nurture the souls of others, but the doctrine gets in the way.

My ideal religion would teach its flock to “Be Excellent to Each Other” (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and to celebrate the universe. But that’s how I try to live life anyway. When I was photographing the ILY’s in an alley one glorious Sunday morning, a man asked why I was not in church. “I am,” I said.

Indeed.

There is also a wonderful series of poems exploring where poems come from–fun, visual and prose poems that are surreal, quirky, and satisfying. Buy the book. Check out her online gallery and blog.