The great thing about poetry is that it can take such varied forms. Some poems might tug on your heartstrings and leave you an emotional mess. Others might make you laugh. Yet others will make you swoon over the beauty and power of language. Very rarely, you’ll come across a collection that does all of these things.
For me, Michael Harris’s The Gamekeeper is one of those collections.
The Gamekeeper includes a selection of poems that spans four decades’ worth of Harris’s poetic output, from the philosophy and emotion of Grace (1977) to the appreciation of natural beauty in In Transit (1985) to the quirkiness, humour and linguistic wordplay of Circus (2011). It is little wonder, then, that The Gamekeeper manages to dabble in so many poetic modes and evoke such a range of feeling in readers.
I particularly enjoyed some of the longer, multi-part poems. While I appreciate a good sonnet or a short, pithy verse as much as the next person, I love the poems that take their time and gently tease out a subject or an emotion, considering it from multiple angles, at different times, in different places. This is evident in The Gamekeeper, for example, in “Death and Miss Emily” and in “Turning Out the Light”. The act of going back, of probing a topic like a sore tooth, seems to me like a very honest, very relatable way of facing an emotional or intellectual challenge.
Below I reproduce small section of “Spring Descending” another long poem that touches on truth, love, memory and the facets of being in a relationship.
Pulled from the Pages
From “Spring Descending”
Let me alter the myth to fit
what in fact happened: she patted
the wax into place, saving the honey
for whatever else she had in mind,
tired of having me tag along, disappeared
in one great closing of her wings,
and left me to the labyrinth
with nowhere to go but up.
With thinning air to hold me
one wingbeat from grace, I traced
her path into the fire
until my head burst into flames
and I began the fall.
And in my growing shadow saw
the awful chaos of the sea
alive with plenitudes of fish
breeding and devouring, in water whose
softest body was about to turn
to stone. Perhaps the story
hasn’t changed at all:
I see the simple truth is:
once I flew. And once I fell.
About the Author
Born in Glasgow Scotland and raised in Montreal, Michael Harris has enjoyed a varied career as an author, editor and educator. He has taught English and Creative Writing at McGill, Concordia, and Dawson College, and spent twenty years as poetry editor of the Véhicule Press imprint Signal Editions. He is the author of several well-regarded poetry collections, including Circus (2010), which was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. His works of poetry and prose have been published in leading journals and magazines across North America. Harris’s most recent book is Field Notes: Prose Pieces 1969 – 2012 (2013). He lives in Montreal, Quebec.
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