Performance Bond, by Wayde Compton

Arsenal Pulp Press, 176 pp, $22.95, softcover.

Anything that will continue the revival of poetry, moribund in English a century save for the brief beat period, is welcome; greeted, in fact, with open arms.

Attempts to join poetry with music or visual art, or both, have been done forever, of course. Wealthy ancient Greeks even had a room built onto their homes in order to contain poets reading to music: auditorium. Paintings and sketches have decorated manuscripts since the invention of writing. Yeah, a fusionist might claim, but nobody ever included a rap CD with a book. Well, in the 1880s, Charles Cros included a record. In other words, as revolutionary as Performance Bond may seem, it's nothing new. Nor is that a negative.

This package contains spoken poetry, written poetry, reproduced photographs, excerpts from oral-history transcriptions, a playlet, even a newspaper clipping. The concept of Performance Bond is exciting. Fuse all these elements and thus render a portrait of the artist; after all, we are all assemblages. Wayde Compton, a "Halfrican", is even more of an assemblage, being of mixed race.

Does the book revive poetry? Rescue it from the smothering grasp of the academics, on the one hand, and the know-nothings on the other? The answer is, unfortunately, no.

Most of the poems here need to be spoken to have any impact. On the page, all but a handful are saved from dullness only by the odd inner rhyme or bit of cleverness. Too often they are self-reverential or tendentious, and they are almost always self-conscious.

Compton's voice on the CD is the big surprise: it's warm and his diction is perfect. He offers glimpses of a real poet underneath the jive in "To Poitier" and "To the Egress". The former especially is a fine poem. Others are spoiled by jejune turns of phrase or parenthetic preciousness.

Wayde Compton talks about Vancouver's black heritage February 24 at the Vancouver Museum (1100 Chestnut Street) at 7:30 p.m.