Nota Bene Poems: A Journey

Nota Bene: A Journey follows, in a set of 71 “suites,” an intense relationship between its author and an astonishing woman artist, a union increasingly identified in this long serial poem with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The work is a major shift in direction for Stephen Bett, a poet known mainly for his sassy, satiric irreverence about political correctness and pop culture. Here we see, to put it mildly, a far more nakedly personal voice, one frequently seared with anguish and despair, while surely attempting to retain the poet’s customary edginess to charge and propel his language beyond a hint of the mere sentimental or cliched.

Ordering Nota Bene

What Others Are Saying

“Anyone who has read earlier books by Stephen Bett…may think that they know all about his style of poetry….his acerbic wit and his unforgiving view of all things stupidly human. His word-play and his eye for found poetry will be remembered in many inventive passages. Opening Bett’s latest book…one is in for a great surprise: the author has turned his gaze inward to chronicle an extremely painful and poignant time in his life. After being married for decades, Bett “[w]alked out / Simple as / thud”…and walked into a period of despair and therapy. Then, like a light shining in the darkness, he fell in love with N.B., an artist and fellow traveler on the road to mental and emotional recovery: “How can you best hurt / me, tell me how much / you love me / inside a life of un- / forgivable cinders ….Nota Bene Poems: A Journey is a long, strange trip for the lovers [a contemporary Orpheus and Eurydice] and for the readers who will witness their story. Stephen Bett’s poems really dig in to remain with you after you close the book.”

—The Pacific Rim Review of Books

“It’s one of the oldest stories: man and woman fall in love: bliss. They fall out: agony…..Amazing that poetry is up to the task. Stephen Bett’s slangy, jivey [book]…has plenty of anguish and despair to share. The [71 part] serial poem identifies the couple in relation to…Orpheus and Eurydice. What’s unique…[is] the loose and humourous notes that Orph send down to his Eury girl in Hades. The man is suffering but can’t help being sassy at the same time. It’s a risky venture, love poetry. Bett pulls it off.”

—BC Bookworld

“This collection comes with instructions, “note well” the found poem; “dream dial these coded messages, as email, text messages, voice mail, or caller I.D., all were intercepted communications, “for our eye only”….Language is deconstructed, as exegesis, disconnected “explication du text”, these pre-written scipts, “comme l’amour”, may be epithalamiums, only punctuated by raw emotions….Through allusions to Dante… or to Rilke, we learn of his Beatrice; she can become a sacred “other”, while he morphs into Thelonius Monk, Brother Antoninus, The Rose of Solitude. With alchemical allusion to “the basest of metals”, he appears to be patently seeking precious metals; through transubstantiation, by means of “my Boethius & my Virgil”, “Until the magic / runs down”, that soul connection…which feels like torture or a brain-bleed….The poet seeks “dark hermeneutics” in Buddhist or Christian, Greek or Roman mythology, to explore that correspondence between two parts or principles of the universe; by exposing successive layers of a dis-ordered, anti-hierarchical cosmos, man and woman migrate through states of consciousness; the intellect may be in its infancy, fuelled by brute physical energy. With this micro/macro cosmology of the ancient world, [Bett] has made relevant and present, the successive reincarnations of Orpheus and Eurydice.”

—The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature