Book Review: irony | sincerity, by Hera Lindsay Bird and Klim Type Foundry

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_irony_sincerityirony|sincerity  is a collaboration between Hera Lindsay Bird and Klim Type Foundry. It is a book about irony and sincerity. Divided into three parts, Bird performs a version of irony on side of the book and sincerity on the other with an more essay type text separating the two parts. The conversation around irony and sincerity has been going for some time now, and this book posits that it is all performance, the lines that break your heart and the lines that make you guffaw come from the same artifice. This a very personal text in that people bother Bird about irony all the time seemingly missing the glowing heart of her work.

Bird is a f**king great poet, so when it comes down to the line to line level of the text, I can’t help be in love with it. And it’s concrete poetry in New Zealand by a New Zealand writer which is just so cool. Words move across the page in fun ways here, they change in font size to fill the space, or they are made small solitary blips in a black expanse, and for one section the words are italicised and shimmering on pink paper. There is just a lot of fun being had here; serious fun.

You have to save the dolphins
but you can only do so…

by killing

many,

many

dolphins.

We have the environmental concern being turned into a kind of nonsensical pattern. This is a section from the irony side and because of the razor sharp focus the poetry has this driving nature to it that keeps you reading. But even in it’s ironic state the text still deals with modern anxieties around work and environment, and there is still this sadness in the text. A quiet laugh turning into sobbing.

Because that is what irony is, it is a coping mechanism.

You
pray
so
often
that
God
refuses
to
exist,
just
to
spite
you.

This hurts my heart even if it isn’t meant to.

And the sincerity side of the book is no less funny or winking or painful. These two sides complement each other and we get the other side of the prayer; “anyway, / thanks / for / listening!” Funny things are often sad and sad things often funny, irony and sincerity aren’t any way to divide a book – and the central text lays this out very clearly. It’s a spoof of a lecture laying out an origin of the conversation around irony and sincerity.

And the argument is that ‘the problem with both attitudes is neither of them consider what it feels like to be alive. You can’t go through life without taking refuge in contradiction and absurdity, but you can’t live without meaning it either.’ This takes the exercise metatext tomfoolery to a place where we always knew it was – life is often a joke but it’s one that makes you cry just as much as laugh.

A part of what is so impressive is Bird here has essentially taken the hundreds or so comments that shit on her work for not being serious literature and turned that into serious literature like an alchemist or someone pretending to be a pharmacist when they’re not and the medicine they’re prescribing miraculously still works.

This experiment excites me, and I hope the design and poetry worlds blend more and get more public attention because I want to see more books with holographic letters on pink pages.

Reviewed by essa may ranapiri

irony | sincerity
by Hera Lindsay Bird and Klim Type Foundry
Published by Klim Type Foundry
ISBN 9780473448806

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