A writer who cares as much about form as language

The poetry offered by Brian T. W. Way in redirection: the prime sonnets and other poems showcases a writer who cares as much about form as language. He is a poet who revels in the various modes of expression available in everything from sonnets to haiku. The natural and architectural milieu of the GTA is catalogued in pithy detail, with a tone that brings biting sarcasm and forlorn nostalgia in equal measure. It reads as field notes from a man consciously immersed in the increasing decay of his world. He sees the cracks but he’s hopeful about our ability to rebuild, drawing loving descriptions of how nature is worn away by urban sensibilities.

Offsetting these universal themes are more intimate portraits of his youth, life and loss. Way evokes dusty memories of his family as they once were. He is speculative about shadowy ancestors, dead children, and his own mortality. Yet, Way is also unapologetic about vanity or jealousy, laying bare his blunt reactions to all that life has thrown his way.

Amidst this dark matter, however, are moments of playfulness – in structure, language and rhetoric. The singsong rhymes of “to see the queen” or the petulant self-depreciation of “asshole poem” come to mind. “prehistoric literary note (with apologies to wcw)” takes a routine domestic communication to an amusing conclusion. In some ways, the lighter pieces carry a heavier weight for the reader, elevating mundane rituals and routines to fleeting moments of beauty.

The final section of the book features a set of sonnets meditating on national themes through the lens of Canadian prime ministers. Here, the academic and the artistic in Way blend together, and readers can delve deep into what is clearly his passion project.

- Sally Panavas