(A Canadian reprint (with addenda) of Extreme Positions)

Stephen Bett’s new book of poetry, Re-positioning, is based on a hilarious soft-porn spoof. Each poem begins with a simple blank-face, stark naked line drawing of “boy & girl next door” figures in utterly physically impossible sexual “positions.” Accompanying the text are witty cultural or literary allusions, a calorie burn count for “him” & “her,” equipment required (deodorant, etc.), cautions & hazards (such as requiring a lawyer and/or chiropractor). In this volume, Bett is riffing on language itself. These humorous, self-referential poems are tied to the language, the argot, not just comic satire. There’s an effort at a more serious humour underlying cultural and philosophical issues that seem to plague us in our increasingly vapid monoculture.

Ordering Information

ISBN: 978-1-897430-41-5
Order from Ekstasis Editions.


“There is no shortage of ideological depth in Stephen Bett’s Re-positioning… but even more refreshing is Bett’s subtle approach to demeaning the credenda of various literary critics…. Occupied by happy existentialists… and Freudian analysts, Re-Positioning feels like a ‘Showtime’ guide for those of us with the cognitive capacity for allusive, sometimes ‘elusive’ text…. Subtle inferences are made between the… real-life characters of the poems and the steady narrative voice, [which]… contains a rich sense of overlooked history in areas of religion, pop culture and medicine.

Frankie Metro, Unlikely Stories (U.S.)

“Bett puts a big space between all of his stanzas—giving time for the metaphors sink in. “Hold that very/ Poundian/ thought,” he writes in the first stanza of “Position 36: Sex on the Brain.” It is then followed by one of those big spaces, and it works similarly to a comedian’s pause for laughter. He comes back in with another joke: “Hold it till/your neck’s/stiff,” stimulating at least two layers of action: for those people who are reading this and taking mental notes, and for the characters in his poems who are doing exactly as he says. He’s trying to bridge the gap between his book and our imagination by enacting an experience most of us have felt/endured/enjoyed.

“Right through/your heavy/throbbing/head,” he continues in the next stanza, interlacing the action with theory—that an indication of a thread of thought can distill all the tension. When poetry leads the reader into a psychological condition, and then distills that condition into a line break, or a metaphor, or any literary device—that is when the poem itself happens. This poem happened in the third stanza as the second part of an extended metaphor:. “Right through/your heavy/throbbing/head,” as the poem is passing, as the joke is passing, and the tension is passing right though our heads.

“Every ending has a kind of simulated punch line. Like we’re listening into a conversation that’s nothing but innuendo and that has to wrap itself up in innuendo, because that’s what those kinds of conversations do, even though innuendo’s just a pretext anyway. Like he shows you how many calories you’ll burn, and what equipment you’ll need, and all this fantastic bullshit for a joke—for the joke—that kind of changes the way you look at the world.”

Michael Johnson, So and So Magazine, Summer 2012