Deepfake Serenade by Chris Banks

Deepfake Serenade pops with a humour and a liveliness that makes this book a joy to read.

As I write this review, we are in the second week of a lockdown due to COVID-19. Between work and trying to keep my kids from spontaneously combusting due to an excess of energy, it is hard to find much time to read poetry for fun. Nevertheless, when I have the chance to steal a moment, I find myself completely lost in Deepfake Serenade.

The first thing that strikes me is that Banks is an effortless craftsperson. That is not to say that I don’t think he puts a great deal of work into his poems. I mean that he has composed this book in such a way that it appears effortless. One poem breezes through to the next. Profound observations, clever phrases, sharp memories, melancholy confessions roll through Deepfake Serenade with startling ease.

“I love how these poems twist and turn.”

I love how these poems twist and turn. “Gallows”, for example, opens with a list of mundane activities related to daily life and the way we try to dull the inanity. But it ends with a startling image that feels at least in part a reference to Icarus. He writes, “When the trap door opens,/ grow wings. That is the only way to disperse/ a crowd. To know you are really alive” (25-27). I like poems that give me an image that stays with me long after I read them. The vision of a hanged man sprouting wings will do just that. So many of these poems lead you in one direction and then spin you around before nudging you towards a new destination.

There are numerous funny moments in Deepfake Serenade. “Middle Age” and “Liar, Liar” both possess standout lines that made me laugh. Too often, literary artists are guarded in their sense of humour, too obsessed with subtlety to really make a reader smile. With Banks, however, he is not afraid to strive for something more direct and accessible. This humour is often ironic and undercuts with a sense of sadness, but that only adds an additional layer to the work.
My favourite moments in this collection are when Banks discusses his conceptions of poetry. In “Point of Entry”, he complains that “Some people treat poems/ like pressed flowers in ancient books/ when really it should an uncovering./ Like lifting up an overturned bucket/ in snow, and finding grass still/ green” (13-18). This metaphor, for me, articulates one aspect that makes Deepfake Serenade so enjoyable and entertaining. It is alive with a vibrant intellect. You start each poem uncertain of where it is going to go, but by the end, you find your way to some bright metaphor.

These poems possess a measured optimism but not a blind, foolish hope. In “High-five”, Banks writes, “we can be both/ optimistic and scared, still gawk at sparrows/ murmuring while waiting for the flood/ to arrive” (15-18). In this current moment, I find that refreshing—worth keeping in my heart as we push through what are—I hope—the final stages of this deeply troubling time. My hunch is that many people would find welcome distraction and comfort from Deepfake Serenade as well.

Chris Banks is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Midlife Action Figure (ECW Press, 2019). His first full-length collection, Bonfires (Nightwood Editions, 2003) was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for Poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. His poetry has appeared in The New QuarterlyArc Poetry MagazineThe Antigonish ReviewEVENTThe Malahat ReviewGRIFFELAmerican Poetry Journal, and PRISM International, among other publications. He lives in Waterloo, ON.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nightwood Editions (Oct. 31 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 80 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 088971410X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0889714106