Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Redwing Summer, Tom BryanThe jacket has a black frame inside a white cover. Inside the frame the background looks perhaps pale blue. In the middle there's a drawing of a redwing in black, with a red patch on the wing. It's sitting on a post. Above this is the title in very large sans serif, first one word left justified, then the second indented a good bit. The author's name is in the same black font but smaller, below the bird.

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,
needing resurrected.
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,
and went.

In only twenty pages, I felt carried across lost decades and uncountable miles by a gentle guide.

Mary Wight

This pamphlet was reviewed in pre-OPOI days, in 2007. Selkirk Lapwing Press is no longer operating, but copies can be had from the author, £3.00 (inc P & P) from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.