Aaron Kreuter Reads from Shifting Baseline Syndrome
Join us for a poetry break – courtesy of a reading by Aaron Kreuter, from his 2022 Governor General’s Award-nominated collection Shifting Baseline Syndrome.
We avoid spoilers like we avoid Lake Ontario,
best-before dates, the evening news.
Spoilers are the hottest blaspheme of the day;
spoilers are us at our best worst selves.
Don’t spoil this for me, the twenty-first century
says to the twenty-fourth, I’m still three
seasons behind. (As if it isn’t obvious
that the alien planet ends up being
a simulation, that the president is a robot,
that our favourite breakfast smoothie
is poisoning the planet one guava at a time.)
Is it really the future we are afraid of spoiling—
who betrays whom and who kills what and who fucks where?—
or is it something else,
something going rotten in the back
of the universe’s refrigerator?
Just as correspondence chess games,
each move predicated on the lunch breaks
of mail carriers, becomes a game
played online with someone in Dubai
over a three-minute blackberry Danish,
narrative time collapses into the spondee of
play all, the sugary crunch of binge
(this means something, you write
in your viewing journal—but what?)
We look away, we watch three hundred episodes
of Who Wants to Be a Parkling Lot Attendant?,
we distract ourselves from the difficult
writers-room slog that’s surely ahead of us:
to craft a series’ ending that is thematically
consistent, that is narratively fresh, that is just.
That closes our solipsistic dreamtime
with the sweetest possible decomposition.
A satiric and searing collection of poetry obsessed with television, oceans, Jewish history, and time.
In Shifting Baseline Syndrome, Aaron Kreuter asks the hard questions: will the Anthropocene have a laugh track? Is it okay to marry your eighteenth cousin? How different would the world look from outside the life-frame of the human? What is it like to have an acid trip in a portapotty? Is it the end . . . of Earth? Of capitalism? Of television?
Throughout Kreuter’s sophomore collection, the TV remote is never far.
Shifting Baseline Syndrome is both searching and searing, veering between satire and sincerity, history and prophecy, and human and non-human worlds. As these clash ecstatically with loathing—and with the end looming—Kreuter demonstrates why we’ll keep doing what we’ve always done: hoping, for once, that the series finale will be good.
Aaron Kreuter is the author of the short story collection You and Me, Belonging (2018) and the poetry collection Arguments for Lawn Chairs (2016). His writing has appeared in places such as Grain Magazine, The Puritan, The Temz Review, and The Rusty Toque. Kreuter lives in Toronto and is a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University. Shifting Baseline Syndrome is his second book of poems.