The cover image on Robert Currie’s new poetry collection, The Days Run Away, features two galloping horses in silhouette. This image and the book’s title are apt metaphors for the Moose Jaw writer’s latest, a strong body of mostly narrative pieces that document the passing of time and the poet’s people, including his close friend and fellow SK writer, Gary Hyland
As Hyland (to whom the book is dedicated) was, Currie is a celebrated fixture on the SK-writing landscape. He is a founding member of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words and twice served as Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate. The longtime former teacher at Moose Jaw’s Central Collegiate knows his way around several genres; his oeuvre includes poetry, short story collections and novels.
These poems are almost exclusively small stories told in “the people’s” language. They communicate. And they pack emotional punch. While reading, I kept imagining Currie delivering these diverse story-poems to a captive audience in a comfortable setting – where one’s allowed to have a beer, and fits right in wearing blue jeans. Folks would be nodding in recognition of shared experiences – attraction to a girl prettier than Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor; childhood eavesdropping on parental fighting; fishing with Len Thomson red and whites.
Many of the poems begin with people, ie: “My cousin Lionel;” “His father;” “The boy who kneels on the dry hillside.” The latter, from the heart-wrenching poem “Hamid,” reveals a last line that feels like a punch. There’s no sentimentality, just straight ahead reporting of a cultural tragedy.
Within the first of the book’s five sections, two poems illustrate Currie’s imagination at full gallop. In “Beyond the Open Window,” a blocked writer’s disengaged arm flies out a window and erratically meanders down a street, essentially taking itself for a walk before it “shudders\and hoists itself upright, the hand\raising a thumb as if it might want\to hitchhike home to me.” In “Ghost Ship,” a creaking ship with a flaming-haired figurehead “sails through the fog that hangs\at five to nine in the schoolyard” above tag-playing children.
Another highlight is the lyrical and almost prayer-like “Let Me”. It begins: “Let me leave\the Seventh Avenue pavement\and step among trees, sawdust\and wood chips a carpet\along the Wakamow Trail,\snow in dark hollows\where the sun never reaches.”
“What We Did” delivers on the nostalgia front. The poet recounts using clothespins to “clip cardboard strips to bicycle forks, our spokes howling” and animating stick-men hand-drawn “in the corners of Big Little Books.” He remembers a time when he’d completed “all the good pictures” in his colouring book.
The best writing makes us feel. I challenge anyone to read “Her Wedding Day” and not empathize with the mocked bride’s humiliation, or sense the unnamed man’s loneliness as he eats his microwaved meal alone and listens to the sounds his house makes in “The End of the Weekend.”
I agree with writer John Donlan, who provided what we call a “blurb” for the book’s back cover: “[Currie’s] stories belong to all of us.”
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM