December 11, 2022
  • December 11, 2022

StarPhoenix Book Reviews Billl Robertson March 23, 2019

By on March 23, 2019 0


Bill Robertson reviews One-Way Ticket by Robert Currie, Another Air by Gillian Harding-Russell and Beyond Forgetting – an anthology by Al Purdy.

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Robert Currie, the loyal and stellar Saskatchewan poet who lives in Moose Jaw and was our province’s poet laureate, is back with another collection of wise, humane and sometimes funny poems. In One-Way Ticket (Coteau, $ 17.95), Currie, who turns 82 this year, faces some mortality by recognizing the one-way ticket we all carry in life.


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Dividing her healthy-sized book into five sections, Currie goes straight to the reunion in The Past, Remembered, calling out old friends, high school high school sons and their hijinks, and, in 1937, thinking about the life her loving parents gave it to him. : “It wasn’t until I studied history in high school / learned that depression was tough / and thought we could have been poor.”

In Inspiration Everywhere, Currie delivers poems inspired by paintings – Wilf Perreault’s alley on the book cover, for example – or which have their origin in verses by other poets. The next section, Others, Observed is written almost entirely in the present tense, action poems about everything from mass shootings to accidents, adultery to heartbreaking suicide in the sonnet What is required of friends.

The Currents, Bubbling section goes from dream to memory, from local events to newspaper history, one gem being the free breakfast at the Comfort Inn in which a woman peels an orange in such an erotic way that the innocent speaker wonders why his older brother covers his tower with his towel. Oh, for being so young, answer the poems in the final Darkness, Gathering section. Here, Currie commemorates deceased friends, family, and his own declining faculties.

In The City He Remembers, a man takes his family to visit the house he grew up in and discovers, despite all the details, that he has the wrong house. In another, a man finds joy in just being able to urinate properly, while in the penultimate poem, Omens, he sums it up: “Here is the outrage of years: / most people I know / are dead.” But as long as Currie is alive, he lives his life and writes poems about it. These poems live hard and vibrant.


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They say travel broadens the mind. Based on the evidence from Regina poet Gillian Harding-Russell’s latest collection, In Another Air (Radiant, $ 20), her frequent trips to and around Yellowknife not only opened her mind, but they also opened her mind. allowed it to expand into cracks, crevices, and permafrost, she didn’t think it could go away. His supposedly rational view of the prairies was haunted by crows, ghosted by the Franklin Expedition, intrigued by the Mad Trapper, and turned kaleidoscopic by the Northern Lights.

Often opening his poems with fragments of sentences to get to the heart of things, harding-russell challenges the conventional wisdom of Franklin’s historical record by imagining letters between lovers and casting his own gaze on the icy cairns from which the young men were discovered. It’s easy to see the whole expedition as a case of horrible pride, she says, but, “in our modern eyes – we’re sitting in the best / seat in hindsight, that they should have / done this or that”.

She really shines in short poems like Raven Talk and I can get it, but a lot of her poems are two or three pages long, changing in thought and expectations as they go. Quests, escape routes, traversal maps, and periods are a prime example of such an evolution. Here we go from ‘abstract island boundaries / too complex to remember in your mind’ to the fossil record of a shaman and what he may or may not have done. Next, we hear about an Inuit child who learned of the existence of mysterious utensils that actually lead back to Franklin’s ships, and finally to the “ancient ghosts” that traveled the land bridge from Asia to America. and how there is a “Great-Great-Grandmother of a Giant Beaver Story,” whose skeleton is actually in a museum in Yellowknife.


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What is real and what is not? If there is a trace of the beaver, did shamans exist, and what about those mysterious boats that the Inuit have long talked about but nobody believed? harding-russell visits the north with new eyes and brings it to us, answering why not? with every mystery she encounters.

Finally, Al Purdy, who built a legendary A-frame in Ameliasburg, Ont., And spent his later years on Vancouver Island, has traveled many miles across the country. Many of us were fortunate enough to see him in Saskatoon, where his laconic style of reading and storytelling made everyone wonder when the story stopped and when the poem began.

Responding to the call for poems celebrating him on what would have been his 100th birthday, various Saskatchewan poets joined their contributions to those of other Canadians in Beyond Forgetting (Harbor, $ 22.95), edited by Howard White and Emma Skagen.

Robert Currie takes us to a literature class at U of S at Once in 1965 for a visit from Purdy: “No one I know / has seen a poet before. We ask ourselves / what he’s going to say, what he’s going to do.

In Cactus Cathedral, Saskatoon’s Glen Sorestad pays homage to Purdy’s famous When I Sat Down to Play the Piano, two poems about a man going to do his morning business. And Jeanette Lynes, who runs the Masters in Writing program at U of S, gives a hilarious English homework assignment: Situate Al Purdy’s Poems in Their Various Literary Traditions: “House guest from hell poems / With all due respect poems / With no respect poems. “

Former Saskatoon resident and recently deceased Patrick Lane, a literary giant himself, offers us the charming prose poem For Al Purdy, in which he recounts many antics that most men of Lane and Purdy’s generation had as they made their way into Canadian consciousness. These are just a part of this proper celebration.



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