My Human Comedy

6 July 2011

My Human Comedy
by Gerald Hill
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$14.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-371-5

Sometimes, when I’m particularly fond of a poetry collection, I send the poet a gift. Not flowers, or cash; not even a Tim Horton’s gift certificate. I send the poet’s words back to him or her, extracting several of my favourite lines and reordering them to make a new poem, a tribute poem. It’s both a thank you and my highest praise.

The last time I sent such a piece it was to Regina writer Gerald Hill, shortly after Coteau Books released his eclectic poetry collection, My Human Comedy: The Man From Saskatchewan Book Two. I couldn’t help myself; the book’s an absolute delight, and the excerpts – Hill’s an original – came together with ease:

Sunlight In Patches, These Moments After Rain
(A Poem For Gerry, By Gerry)

Here between the street and his heart –
a little place, not too far away –

he wants to get rid of himself. Late afternoon,
afraid to find more light. All of this

easy as gravel to see. It’s hard
to make a difference in this heat. He’s full of stillness,

gets quieter every morning. The only way out
is to settle in like birds. What a find

of crows. A jacket. Wind is
both the next and previous page. The day

gets to him in a hurry. Love is why. Love
looking through him. Blowing down

the words. Love like an alley
on the map unfolding. The only way

to get there is carried in someone’s mouth. Night
always knows: a roofline, moonburn,

the backs of stores. A way to get through.
We walk the same paths, cuffed and led away.

The old men laugh. Poets scribble like moths.
And we’ve all worn the same colour for days.

See? Hill’s lines are poetic gold, and as his subtitle suggests, he’s one of our own. Born in Herbert, SK, he’s now lived, written, and taught (at Luther College) in Regina for many years. He’s well-known to readers for his five other books; as a Sage Hill writing instructor; and as the coordinator of Talking Fresh, an annual spring festival of writers and writing. Like the proverbial busy person, Hill gets things done, and done exceedingly well.

To read his work is a little like looking in a mirror – because he writes of the familiar, and “We feel in the same sky” – but what looks back is a different, more interesting subject. He puts an inimitable spin on ordinary events (enjoying a cup of tea, or watching a man carry out his trash) and things (Oldsmobiles …new shoes), and discerns the poetry within.

I love that some of his poems were written on a “balcony overlooking the Travelodge parking lot”. Hill has a natural flair for humour, evident especially in the “Stan Still” pieces.

This book’s a testament to a hyper-acute eye and ear, and, more than anything, a wide-open heart. We laugh with the poet, and he helps us laugh at our own “human comedies.” Gerald Hill: thank you, and highest praise.


One Comment

  • Bernadette 7 July 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Funny I should see this today. I just saw Gerry walking across College Avenue, not more than 90 minutes ago!