Redwing Summer, Tom Bryan
Selkirk Lapwing Press, 2005 (Vintage title, so no longer in print)
Icons glimpsed in the distance
The poet was born in Canada and many of the poems evoke aspects of its vast landscape.
James Dean, Neil Young and Elvis have walk-on roles, not appearing as leading names. By stepping lightly into the poems their presence illuminates more brightly the lives of others — folk known to the poet.
People who have gone before, as well as physical and temporal distance all matter deeply. The dead, displaced and damaged abound: a wandering physician, a musician in exile, a traumatised war veteran, a plane hijacker who jumped (in ‘D.B. Cooper’):
‘What kind of man would do that, what
crazy kind of man?' […]
A man like any man.
A man needing cleansed,
Maybe a man like Jesus?
Wisdom, humour and pathos intermingle to powerful effect as in ‘Residential Blues’:
We hammer out ‘Blue Suede Shoes’
to forty wheelchair-bound Elvises
Nobody seems troubled
that the King is gone or that
so many living
wish to impersonate the dead.
Images of time passing are captured with deceptive ease — I could almost hear a train whistle blow as it disappeared into the empty prairie in ‘Hometown’:
beyond where lonely freight trains
howled to go,
In only twenty pages, I felt carried across lost decades and uncountable miles by a gentle guide.