Wednesday 6 August 2014

Underwriting The Present

In 2012, Emily M. Keeler wondered why Paul Bernardo's crimes keep being reprised in the form of essays, books and poetry:
Even though I’m a bit too young (and originally from a city too far away) to have first-hand memories of what it was like to live during the time when Bernardo was serially raping women across the GTA, or the time shortly after when he and his wife, Karla Homolka, tortured and murdered three teenaged girls—Tammy Homolka, Leslie Mahaffy, and Kirsten French—there remains a lingering echo of that terror. The world may be a different place now, and Bernado is behind bars, but lately it seems like this two decades-old story is underwriting some aspect of the present.
Michael Lista, set to publish a poetry collection inspired by Bernardo, has always been quick to clarify his intentions in writing his poems:
I need to make an important distinction here: my new work does not intend “to cover” Bernardo. It’s quite the opposite; It is not about him. It’s more about us, the Canadian imagination, both at the time that Bernardo was committing his crimes, and now, twenty years on, its flaws and allergies. It’s about the twinge of guilt and terror that closes in around that part of our mind when we even mention his name. And I’m looking to see if there isn’t a sympathetic connection that I can represent aesthetically between the solidarity of silence that prevents a mimesis of what happened and the psychopathic personality itself, devoid of empathy (empathy, remember, forces us to feel our neighbour’s pain). It’s a book of poems that isn’t about Paul Bernardo...My interests are in what doesn’t make it into our—especially Canadian—history...Where there is no history, there is no longer an event; and so I suppose my job is to create an alternate event that includes the fact of its exclusion from history.

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