Friday, March 21, 2008

recent reading: Monty Reid's Fridays

For my birthday this year, Monty Reid [see his 12 or 20 questions here] pulled out a copy of his first solo (and self-) publication, Fridays (Sidereal, 1979), something he’s done every so often over the past couple of years, digging into his storage unit for copies of his old journal The Camrose Review [see my note on such here] or in by one, out by four [see my note on such here]. The timing is pretty interesting, considering I’m working slowly on a review of his new collection (just waiting on the final book to arrive on my doorstep, sometime over the next few weeks), his Luskville Reductions (Brick Books, 2008). The author of nearly a dozen poetry collections (with a non-fiction book thrown in), Reid is also the author of karst means stone (NeWest Press, 1979), A Nature Guide to Alberta (non-fiction; Hurtig Publishers, 1980), The Life of Ryley (Thistledown Press, 1981), The Dream of Snowy Owls (Longspoon, 1983), The Alternate Guide (Red Deer College Press, 1985), These Lawns (Writing West / Red Deer College Press, 1990), Crawlspace: New and Selected Poems (House of Anansi Press, 1993), Dog Sleeps: Irritated Texts (NeWest Press, 1993), flat side (Red Deer Press, 1998) and Disappointment Island (Chaudiere Books, 2006), as well as a small series of chapbooks, including Six Songs for the Mammoth Steppe (above/ground press, 2000), Sweetheart of Mine— (BookThug, 2006), cuba A book (above/ground, 2005), Lost in the Owl Woods (BookThug, 2007) and the forthcoming Forty Fucks (BookThug, 2008). For years known as an Alberta poet, Reid moved to Luskville, Quebec, just west of Hull/Gatineau, in 1999, to start working at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, and his poems for years have acknowledged his western geographies.

It’s always interesting to see where a writer started his beginnings from the early publications, to see both just how much the work has progressed and evolved over the years, but the potential hints of what was still to come (I found the same when working my essay on Barry McKinnon a couple of years back). When reviewing his third poetry collection, The Life of Ryley, in the NeWest Review (something Reid had been editor of, but the year before) poet/critic Douglas Barbour [see his 12 or 20 questions here] even referenced that first little publication:
[…] Although I might question some minor touches in specific poems (some of his similies would be more forceful in straight metaphors), I like the whole of Monty Reid’s The Life of Ryley (Saskatoon: Thistledown Press, 1981, 76 pp, $14.00/6.95) very much. Reid’s previous book, Karst Means Stone, was a finely modulated exploration of personal history through a grandfather’s memoir, but his earlier pamphlet, Fridays, a tossed-off sequence of takes on the people who passed him as he sat in mall at the University of Alberta, more clearly registers his poetic as it is displayed in The Life of Ryley: a listening to and watching of the passing now. What is impressive about The Life of Ryley is how the poems shift in form as their objects change. Some of the poems are observations, some are spoken in other personae, some are the poet’s own statements: together they form a mosaic of a small community’s life as it happens. Reid has a wicked sense of humour, but none of these poems feel like cheap shots. Moreover, some of them are troubling or powerfully sympathetic. Many voices are heard in The Life of Ryley, but behind them all is the dispassionate, precisely observing, voice of a poet who notices the things that count and knows how to shape each observation fittingly. It’s a good book, and unlike many Thistledown book (book which are often larger), it’s a whole piece of work. […] NeWest Review, Volume 7, No. 8, April, 1982)
Obviously this is writing before he perfected that long lyric line of a single moment, stretched out to its fullest, but you can still see hints of the later poems, the echoes of the rhythms and clarity to be later built upon, from this first chapbook as single poem:
a security guard
with shoulder patches

more law students

someone with a
portfolio of paintings,
prints, sitting down
to drink

two little kids
that must live
somewhere in the mall
they don’t have
any coats on

one of the girls who works
in the library

one guy with the
Edmonton Sun

Lubor Zink

no, not Lubor Zink

the enclosed air
the sun heaped into
between the rooms
the stores, the faces
move in light


Greg Hollingshead
with an unfinished novel

non-academic staff

a girl in a siwash sweater
something like the one
Pat’s grandmother made
out of bison wool

so many others
gone by while I’m
looking at someone else
the constant rush
[Monty Reid launches his Luskville Reductions on Thursday, May 15th in Ottawa at Rasputin’s, 7:30pm; live music with Monty Reid, Sarah Hill, Jonathan Ferrabee and others]

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