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Lucid Forge Review of Avatar, 2007

Written by Kindah Mardam Bey 

Score: 4/5

If you have an ounce of imagination and a teaspoon full of scientific knowledge, then you will be able to enjoy the musings of Sharon Harris in her book of poetry, Avatar. What you do need as a reader of this convergence between art and poetry is an immense amount of time to contemplate the ideas and thoughts amidst the pages of Avatar.

In Sharon Harris’s first book of poetry, the reader is allowed a glimpse into the fictional science of pataphysics. Just as thought-provoking and compelling as quantum physics, ‘pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions. Harris takes her readers on a journey of understanding, making every word, every image, every moment you are reading Avatar, both a spiritual and intellectual experience.

Avatar has a double meaning, the more ancient concept from Hinduism which means “the bodily manifestation of a God”, and the present day technological expression of Avatar, which is the ‘”icon representing a person online”. A convergence of ancient spirituality with modern day technology; Harris combines abstract with exact, and free thought with analysis.

It is Harris’s ability to scratch the surface away and examine the inner core that makes her imaginary solutions so surreal. Her pages aren’t numbered traditionally, but are a sequence of binary codes. ‘Information Technology Is Not For The Future’ is a profound and concise poem on ecology, or what initially seems to be someone stuck at a computer too long who has run out of ideas. By scratching away the surface of the poem ‘On World w/ Arrow Keys’ you are able to discover a penetrating analysis of how we live as humans on a basic and global level.

Avatar has twenty six figures, labeled A – Z throughout the minimalistic poetry, which evokes as much depth as the poems themselves. Many of the figures are explained at the end, which is very helpful, but often I enjoyed the pleasure of simply staring at the images and resting with my thoughts and emotions. Just like looking at a painting, you see the details and the whole of the image simultaneously. Such as Figure H, is it a vortex into a central point, or an energy emitting outward from a central point? Harris is both a poet and a visual artist, who is pushing against the traditional boundaries of art and literature in Avatar.

So, too, is she both scientist and artist, making you focus, process, and analyze every sentence or image, because she is committed to making every word pure to the experience. Such gems as “Happy Poems”, where Harris states “happiness in poems is often overlooked, and sadly mistaken for irony”, are surprisingly perceptive for a debut book. Harris is even kind enough to help out her reviewers, explaining what makes a good poem.

Avatar is a book of poems that you will read again and again, and with each reading you will discover a different and interesting aspect of Harris’s work. Much of the book is themed after her natural obsession with the words ‘I Love You’, and their context within society. Harris’s work has appeared in newspapers, literary journals, magazines, and on radio and television across Canada. She is working on an illustrated book, as a cultural study of her favourite term ‘I Love You.’ Visit Harris’s website to learn more about this exceptional auteur at www.iloveyougalleries.com.