The Book of 1000 Poems, Volumes 1-4, by Conshinz, a.k.a. Port Alice resident Brendon Wilkie, published by Austin Macauley of New York, was released in January 2020. Conshinz started seriously writing poetry three years ago when he began suffering the effects of a brain injury from a car accident that happened 20 years ago.
His neurosurgeon told him that, as his brain began to heal and reprogram itself, he might notice a “brain change.” That brain change eventually manifested in a serious mental illness: a major depressive disorder with mixed features. The mixed features include PTSD and a cluster B personality disorder. He has an “emotional deficit”—he doesn’t experience emotions the same way as other people.
When Conshinz’s mental illness became established, poetry became the means for him to cope. He says it helped him “to make sense of all the spinning thoughts that I had going on inside my head.”
He is also a punk rock musician, and his poetry is very much an extension of his music: it is brash, deliberately offensive, anti-establishment, unsentimental, cynical, provocative and raw. I enjoyed it as a vicarious venting. I also liked how he sometimes juxtaposed certain loosely though not logically connected phrases that produced a surreal mental image.
A drawback of the collection was the sheer volume of poetry. Some of the poems that I found memorable when I read them tended to get drowned out by the sea of words. Especially for an emerging writer, a slim volume with only his very best work might be a more effective way to make a strong first impression. Each and every poem should shine and leave the reader hungry for more. That’s a feat difficult to achieve when you present your work “in bulk.”
I am perplexed at his choice of a title. One might be inclined to think, “1000 poems… that’s a lot of reading… sounds too much like work.” I would have thought Conshinz could have had a bit of fun coming up with clever enigmatic references to brain trauma and mental illness to draw the reader in.
Although poetry is widely considered the medium of emotion, Conshinz says his work is “not necessarily about emotions.”
He added, “I think a lot of my poetry…is to manipulate people to a certain way of thinking so that I can propose ideas that are foreign to people.” His work is about alternative perceptions, giving people a “fresh look” at issues such as trans rights, politics and global warming.
To do this, he aims for a certain shock value by being deliberately profane, crass and offensive. I feel, however, that he needs to take the offensiveness even further. He needs to get really raw, turning the camera on himself. He needs to commit poetic hara-kiri, rip himself apart and put himself back together again, and try to convey to the reader what it feels like to be “absolutely going crazy.”
Although he claims to have an “emotional deficit,” I believe there must be a secret portal to his emotions hidden somewhere. Maybe the powers of the universe are providing him with the means, through poetry, to help him try to find it.
Perhaps the one whose perceptions he is really trying to alter are his own, through the healing power of art.
He is trying to come to terms with his presently inaccessible emotions (that are “foreign” to him) that can join the parts of his brain that have been so long lost to one another (emotions have wholistic healing power). If he can successfully achieve that—then invite the world into his process—he will effectively influence others.
There will be a poetry reading and book signing at Cafe Guido in Port Hardy on Saturday, March 7, 2-4 p.m.
Debra Lynn is a freelance writer for the North Island Gazette, artist and educator who lives in Port Alice