"Hailed by the Call as I stepped across
Venables at Clark following a transverse line
like all the other commodities circulating aimlessly
I drifted along corrugated steel walls
sun burning every body every building every form
cash exploding from crowns of distant towers
occupied by the rentiers in this haemopolis of
arteries and conduits branching out centrifugally."
At some point in the last decade, the "unreal cities" of Modernity became post-Real. Roger Farr's I Am a City Still But Soon I Shan't Be metabolizes the modernist long poem in order to provide a psychogeographical I-witness account of this transformation.
In nine Cantos, or spheres of hell, Farr moves impossibly between major and minor cities, crossing and re-crossing zones, edging boundaries, charting dreamscapes, always drifting, without ever becoming a flaneur.
Vancouver stars in "pre-conceptual" found footage from 1973, which is actually a dream of the future. New York is an "elegant incubator" for the new avant-gardes, who are preparing for another civil war. Berlin is a nightclub, or a mall, that "kettles" its negations. Nanaimo is a necropolis seen through a lens held by the hand of a dead poet. Meanwhile a statue of Artemis explodes from the streets in Siracusa, setting off a riot during the 2010 Olympics. Urban streams, flows of capital, and other bodily fluids run the course of the tour. But there is no outside to Room 514 in the Patricia Hotel.
In her review in Canadian Literature of Farr's last book, the Livesay-nominated IKMQ (New Star, 2012), Melissa Dalgleish observes that "Farr's I is particularly complex." Readers of I Am a City Still But Soon I Shan't Be might come to recognize such lyric complexity as a shared condition of life in the "post-human cities" from which we chart our lines of flight.
"The wager — the excitement of this book — is how radically and openly we are thrown into the project of thinking and feeling our way through the contemporary — no assumed 'truths,' no established 'methods' or 'theories' or 'ideology' — just the ineradicable will to resist. Poetry has always been there when nothing else is left. This is poetry as the last stand — but the magic is that it reads as much like poetry as the first skirmish of what is to come." — Stephen Collis, The Capilano Review