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The Irrationalist

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  170 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Poetry. In acclaimed poet Suzanne Buffam's second collection, her unusual range, formal rigor, and imaginative force are on full display as we are introduced to the wry meditations of a literary "irrationalist" who pursues her own poetic logic beyond the bounds of reason. Throughout the collection, in resolutely modern, rueful and eccentric lyrics, Buffam investigates the ...more
Paperback, 104 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Canarium Books
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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  170 ratings  ·  21 reviews

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Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Buffam does a great many things well, including prose and hybrid styles. But I have to say that what drives this book for me is her astute turns: wry, witty, and capable moments of doubling back into a thought to broaden or deepen it. No where is this skill more apparent than in the section of the book entitled "Little Commentaries." "The magician says watch closely./The lover says close your eyes." ("On Vanishing Acts") This is a book to return to repeatedly; if only to fall deeper in love each ...more
Aaron Belz
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Terrific book. Count me as a fan.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Suzanne Buffam is brilliantly witty without pretension. Her writing is thought through and meditative. I found there to be something special about this one, and yet, I fail to point to it, unable to describe. I prefer her newer work, A Pillow Book, and recommend this one as well.
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
On Vanishing Acts
by Suzanne Buffam

The magician says watch closely.
The lover says close your eyes.
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: female, poetry, year-2010s

To be a valley
Find a hill
And lie down at its feet.
These are easy logics. They sound good but are they true? That's part of the fun of reading this book. The middle section is the most fun, full of short poems on every subject, reminding me sometimes of haikus and sometimes of aphorisms. Lots of quick humor. Based on this section, I think Suzanne would be great at Free Poems.

Of course, it goes beyond that, and there is more depth to it than my description suggests. She's preoccupied wit
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Suzanne Buffam's second book feels like two books in one; a book of prose poems and short lyrics, and then the "Little Commentaries," which are very short poems, aphorisms, and epigrams, for example, "Inverse Relations": "The pleasure I feel | When I say the word 'trousers' | Is equal, exactly | To the discomfort I feel | When I say the word 'slacks'. Say what one will about the poems in the first book, there's pleasure to be had in such an epigram. I wish the "Little Commentaries" were a single ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This lovely little book of poetry is divided into a three sections. I, II & III. The first and last section have the relatively longer poems in them and they middle sections are more like short observational snippets. What made this book an effective work of poetry is the multifaceted ways the author approaches the topic and that is how the book for me seemed like a seamless entity, in its ability to keep pulling something new out in each line. I know some people commented on the cohesion of ...more
Erin M.
May 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This amazing little gem of a book is full to the brim with epiphany moments, intelligent insights, and very quotable short lines, delivered with care, brevity, and attention to detail. Suzanne is an artist as she moves easily back and forth - sometimes within the same poem - from a meandering, dreamlike tone, to bare, decisive lines that pack a punch.

I found this book extremely easy to relate to in its scope, subject matter, and tone. It is a certain talent to be able to transcribe thought into
Oct 22, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Scattered thoughts...

- almost seems like three separate books. And yet, they coexist quite well. I'm not even consciously sure of exactly how they intermingle, but they do. And that is enough.

- the middle section of poem-lets is cute. Some humor, some pathos, some real stabs at meaning. I am a fan of aphorism, though.

- I really liked the couple of white pages that separated the final poem from the rest of the manuscript. Some may see it as gimmicky, but I like it. Felt like a held brea
Ben G
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The highlight is a series of "Little Commentaries", which takes poetic forms and applies the cadence of jokes. In general, Buffam's poems build to punchlines, meaning each feels like an ending, rather than something to unpack. As a result, the poems tend to alternate between the satisfying and the frustrating. The work is much stronger when working in stanzas -- the prose poems in the final third are unfocused. Overall, the highs outweigh the problems.
Steven Buechler
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is what we perceive what we really see? When we look at something do we really and truly understand it? Or are we misjudging and dismissing items that are really important. These are the types of questions that come up when one reads Suzanne Buffam excellent collection of poetry called The Irrationalist.
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Three shorter poems from The Irrationalist by Suzanne Buffam:


Fuck you and the horse you rode in on
Is often just another way of saying come back.


People who commit suicide don't fail to believe in life.
They fail to believe in death.


The smaller the heart the swifter the wings.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Read this while on the beach on Thetis Island. It is rare that poetry gives you some laugh out loud moments, but this book did. Funny, irreverent, smart with a lot of lines that I would like to steal. Might just have to buy my own copy of this book and take a better look.
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this thin volume of poetry three times through within a library borrowing period. I love Buffam's approach to language, her rhythm, her combination of reverence and irreverence, introspection and circumspection. Hurrah!
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Versatile and lovely. I liked almost every piece in this collection.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, 2011, poetry
Especially enjoyed some of the poems in the "Little Commentaries" series.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
i either loved these poems to death or didn't click with them at all, depending on the poem.

so 3 *'s is an average, not a verdict.
Bayley McDaniel
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An incredible piece that makes you think a wee bit differently, more conceptually, and plays with concepts of time and political / cultural inheritance in a beautiful way.
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not all impulse buys are good ones :P. There was one poem I really liked, "Enough," and some of the shorter ones, but overall I was underwhelmed.
Amelia Johnson
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Suzanne Buffam is a Canadian poet, author of two collections of poetry. Her first, Past Imperfect: Poems (House of Anansi Press, 2005), won the Gerald Lampert Award in 2006. Her second, The Irrationalist (Carnarium Books, 2010), was shortlisted for the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in literary journals and magazines including Poetry, Jubilat, A Public Space, Denver Quart ...more