A Homemade Life

14 December 2010

A Homemade Life
by Michael Trussler
Published by JackPine Press
Review by Kris Brandhagen
Price: $35 ISBN:

Gorgeous, personal, drawing up memories that conjure loss, Michael Trussler’s A Homemade Life is comprised of black and white photos and text, each a postcard unit to be rearranged on the whim of the reader. Presented in a box with a clear cover the handmade, limited edition book looks just like a package of postcards.

Trussler proves himself to be well versed in the conventions of photography. The title image is a beach scene with a woman, made headless by the framing of the photograph, holding onto a leashed dog in the grassy foreground while behind them is a couple sunning themselves on lawn chairs in the sandy middle ground. The edge of a body of water is visible in the background. Intriguingly, all the figures are situated facing the photographer and not, as one might normally expect, the water. In almost perfect thirds, and with lots of windy motion, it is a successful photographic composition and a stunning hook.

About twelve postcard pages in, just as I was beginning to wonder if there was a textual element to this book, the poetry opens with the following explanation (or perhaps even disclaimer): “I further understand that there can be no shadows, just a beach, and a dog, / one woman who matters, and her fingers must hold a leash made out of water and wind and the desire, / repeated just today, never to have children”. Tender and honest, this is a statement that builds on itself and cannot be taken apart. Through these snapshots and poems, a story is told, of the narrator, and of his past/present/future as well as his devotions.

My favorite photo depicts a dark empty room with a barred window through which comes the only light, stretched taut across the wall. Compositionally, the photograph is marvelous – there is fantastic left to right movement from the window to the reflection of the window. There is a figurine of what might be a giraffe on the windowsill in dialogue with its shadow self. The scene is simple, beautiful, and earnest, yet what is absent from the frame is perhaps most important (children). This exclusion creates wonderful tension.

A Homemade Life is a refreshing read, a story of a man in love, traveling alone, and focusing on details. Michael Trussler proves here once more he is a well-lived, learned, and traveled voice in Saskatchewan’s writing community, and also reveals himself to be a talented photographer. The author writes “Ban autobiography” at the end of what seems to be autobiographical text. I would rather wonder about it than know for sure.

Michael Trussler lives in Regina and teaches English at the University of Regina. His first book of poetry, Accidental Animals was published by Hagios Press in 2007, and was nominated for Saskatchewan Book Awards in the City of Regina Award and for the Book of the Year. In 2006, Trussler’s collection of short fiction won the Saskatchewan Book Awards’ Book of the Year Award and the Regina Book Award.


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