49th Shelf Most Anticipated Spring 2015 Poetry Selection
Would it be possible to compose a book that appears to be “about” its author, but is indirectly about something else, like identity or relationships or language? Maybe a book not written by a hero… but by many?
This was the challenge taken up by kevin mcpherson eckhoff in his fourth book, Their Biography: an organism of relationships. This collaborative memoir collages together word-portraits from friends, family, coworkers, strangers, robots, and even adversaries in order to create a silhouette of not a single person, but of the manacles that connect people to one another.
Their Biography is meant to make people think – its broad array of voices and poetic/prosaic forms disturbs comfortable patterns of reading, and its subject is as much about the contributors as the author. Eclectic and desolate, confessional and dubious, this record of relationships defies authorship, biography, and individualism.
Fans of Gregory Betts’s “Facebook Poem Project” or Rachel Zolf’s Tolerance Project, along with anyone compelled by contemporary poetry and conceptual art, will connect with this pixelated investigation into identity, and the true meaning of ‘self’ as we and others define it.
Watch the BookThug Author Interview:
Watch the Book Launch and Reading:
Watch the Book Trailer for Their Biography:
Praise for Their Biography: an organism of relationships:
“kevin mcpherson eckhoff, as a white dude, definitely has approximate knowledge of many things. And the world is always happy to hear approximations of any variety of thing from any white dude. But lucky for us, Kevin has the wisdom to know he’s no ethnographer. Instead, sometime between the time he was born and the fascimile he is now, Kevin figured out that it’s possible to change one’s privileged nature by changing one’s use. So, ‘Use me’, is what Their Biography begs – and by invoking this interconsumption of friendship and social cannibalism, Kevin can only present Kevin as a decommissioned object, sinking under the burden of an impossible individuality, yawning into the surreal latex of his own umbilical cord as he struggles to emerge. One might gain control over one’s body by consuming beef, or something equally nutritious. But Kevin insists on staying pale and anemic, coloured only by the civic placenta upon which he suckles. It’s exactly this that makes Their Biography is so deliciously malicious.” —Trisha Low, author of The Compleat Purge
“It’s wide-ranging and it roams, but it’s also incredibly playful, and the experience of reading it is fun even when it’s frustrating. Eckhoff isn’t bludgeoning readers with a thesis, nor is he asking us to swallow a sea of ideas and words. He’s just examining – and messing around with – our ideas about what a self is.” —Emma Healey for The Globe and Mail
“It might be the best autobiography not written by its subject, and it’s certainly the funniest.” —Jonathan Ball for This Magazine
“It’s a hilarious, melodramatic interpretation of the idea we have no essential self, but that our personality shifts depending on the day and social context. Where is the “real” eckhoff inside of all of this? Their Biography suggests the self is a comedy of errors, but the stage rather than the play.” —The Winnipeg Free Press
“Trace the boundaries of relationships through the many exits and entrances between one’s self/ves and others. Trace amounts amount… Their Biography leaks into our own simply by reading it.” —Poetxt
“Their Biography becomes a puzzle entirely separate from Eckhoff. The work becomes a version of Kevin, even though it is supposed to be entirely about him. It’s like putting together a puzzle of a photo of a city skyline. As the pieces come together, the city is represented, but also the photograph that was originally taken becomes an interactive work outside of the landscape it portrays.”
—Jacqueline Valencia for Les Figues Press
“Eckhoff’s “organism of relationships” is visually defamiliarizing, playful, laugh-out-loud funny. The most effective lesson in association since Saul Steinberg’s 16 October 1969 New Yorker cover.” —Atticus Review
“Kevin McPherson Eckhoff’s latest book combines a radical form of self-effacing honesty with an even more radical form of self-criticism.” —Broken Pencil
“Their Biography is a collage of kevins as described by friends, family, co-workers, strangers, robots, and even adversaries. The result is not simply a construction of kevin mcpherson eckhoff, but of the bonds that tie people together.” —Contemporary Verse 2
“This is a highly entertaining and imaginative book, and after a while, it might no longer matter if this character is real, or has anything to do with the the author himself.” —rob mclennan’s blog
On Our Radar: a monthly series featuring books with buzz worth sharing —49th Shelf
Writers Block: kevin mcpherson eckhoff and Jake Kennedy —All Lit Up
kevin mcpherson eckhoff’s poetry has been described as having “purity, clarity, and intensity of emotion” while “[undermining] our common sense of language.” His publications include Rhapsodomancy (2010), Easy Peasy (2011) and Forge (2013). His latest book is Their Biography: an organism of relationships (BookThug 2015). Recent work appears in the anthologies Why Poetry Sucks and TAG: Canadian Poets at Play, and he co-edited the final issue of Open Letter with his best friend, Jake Kennedy. As the managing editor at Kalamalka Press, he runs the John Lent Poetry- Prose Award, a letterpress chapbook competition for emerging writers. For eight months of the year, he teaches at Okanagan College, and for the remaining four, he hides out at the Shuswap River or Starlight Drive-in or Rose Mountain with his Laurel and Lionheart. Connect with kevin at http://kevinmcphersoneckhoff.com/ or follow him on Twitter @GmorningPoetry.