It’s been a fair while since the poetry-reading public’s heard from writer and University of Regina (Campion College) professor Randy Lundy, but the outstanding blurbs on his third poetry collection, Blackbird Song, will definitely whet the appetites of his fans, and they should draw several new readers to these spare, contemplative poems scored with birds, prairie memories, and the moon in many different incarnations. Top Canadian poets like Lorna Crozier (“Wow, I say again and again”), Patrick Lane (he includes Lundy among “the masters”), and Don McKay (“visionary”) sing sweet praises, and Linda Hogan writes that these poems “are grounded constellations created of fire and ice”. When senior poets’ blurbs are poetry in and of themselves, you know you’re doing something right.
And Lundy is certainly doing something right. Firstly, he’s turning inward, and asking questions both of himself and the universe that may be unanswerable, ie: “are you waiting for the appearance of that something whose appearance/would be its own vanishing?”. He’s creating unique images and juxtaposing words in fresh ways. Some of these poems are brief and reminiscent of haiku. Many are odes: to lovers; to “bread fresh from the oven” and the hands that prepared it; to trees across the seasons, and to ancestors. The poet recalls the strong women in his family, including grandmothers “who skinned trapped animals, tanned hides; and cut the/throats of sheep to let them bleed out”.
The book’s divided into three sections, and as the title and elegant line art cover- image of a blackbird suggest, birds predominate. In the opening piece, “January,” we read that the author’s mother, “exists for me/the way the owl/perches/on black spruce”. We find birds in similes (“Night comes swiftly like the wing of a blackbird”) and metaphors, ie: a great grey owl is a “low-winter-snowcloud” – this is the kind of writing that’s earned Lundy such brilliant kudos. I love his north-returning geese, “dragging their shadows”.
These are also poems of place: the Cypress Hills, Buffalo Pound Lake, and the moon – yes, the moon, or “night sun,” is perhaps Lundy’s best-described domain. He treats us to a “hand-drum-full-moon,” and the “Birchbark-silver peel of a waning/almost-gone-now moon”.
Reading these quiet (and sometimes self-deprecating) mediations is akin to hearing the poet think out loud – indeed, the words think or thinking appear in several of these poems; even the mountains are “thinking themselves into being./Thinking magma-flow, thinking/the liquid fire at the core of/everything,” and a winter elm tree’s engaged in “Deep thinking at the core”. Readers should also engage in the thinking these poems inspire: read the pieces slowly, perhaps sit with them individually. Savour the images. Like the red-winged blackbird on the cover, these poems are most effective when given adequate space.
But take the poet’s sage advice, too: “Try not to think. Try the meditation of heart-mind. If you listen/closely, you will hear the oxidized hinges on the doors of perception/squeak, opening and closing, swinging an inch or two, in the just-now rise of wind”.
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