Author: Brian Way
Trade Paperback: 108 pages
Suggested Retail (Paperback): $19.95
From its innovative sonnet sequence on Canada’s Prime Ministers to myriad ruminations on matters local and intimate, national and universal, Way’s redirection is a Canadian book of poetry that seeks, unceasingly, to lay bare the Canadian psyche and that of the world beyond.
From its quirky sonnets on each of Canada’s Prime Ministers to its ruminations on the history and landscape that have helped mould this country, Way’s redirection is solidly a Canadian book. The poems are a tour-de-force that shifts in genre, tone, style and theme. Modernist interests are fused with postmodern sensibilities—anything goes as the poems slide from topic to topic, form to form. A charming “ode of sorts” on Al Purdy gives way to a sustained ode on the death of the author’s great uncle in World War I, a satire about the odd compulsion of neighbours to decorate their driveways sits next to a comic haiku eulogy about an exotic pet owner who loved baby tigers, an elegy on his mother’s death by cancer is followed by an ironic lyric recounting a child’s doomed visit to see Queen Elizabeth—the language of Way’s work is always precise and unswerving—agile, exact, arcane, blunt. This is a poetry in which imagination, translated into language as effectively as words can manage, offers us a new, often redirected view of the world as Way sees it—sometimes funny, sometimes brutal, but always honest, genuine. And always with that ineffable sense that this is a Canadian seeing himself and Canada inside and out, and the world beyond.
From its quirky sonnets on the life and times of each of Canada’s Prime Ministers to its ruminations on the history and landscape that have helped mould the personality of this country, Way’s redirection is first and foremost a Canadian book. It touches on topics as diverse and unique as the nation itself, from an admiring “ode of sorts” to the voice of the land that remains Al Purdy and a sustained reflection on Private William Anson Smith, a teenager from North Hastings who died in combat in World War I, to poems that examine current and mythic aspects of his local neighbourhood as well as the relationship of politics and national identity, of imagination and experience, of art and the artist.
The collection, overall, is a tour-de-force in genre, tone, style and theme, inexorably exploring encounters with the world in different ways with different voices. Modernist interests are fused with postmodern sensibilities—anything goes as the poems shift from topic to topic, form to form. Some reflect on highly personal incidents (the deaths of relatives and friends; intimate relationships; a life spent among students); others consider events more political or national in scope (a child’s doomed trip to see Queen Elizabeth; the impact of Canada-at-war on the living and the dead; an illumination of Canada’s history and its Prime Ministers, each envisioned through a new sonnet form that mimes the Canadian self); and yet others foreground humour, irony and satire (a haiku eulogy for an exotic pet owner who loved baby tigers; a ragtime tune about a supercilious hit man; a persona so obsessed with tea that he finally recognizes himself as a ‘tedious asshole’; the thoughts of a guillotined head shortly after execution).
The language of Way’s work is always precise and unswerving—agile, exact, arcane, blunt—words take shape like sculptures on the page; the gaps and spaces echo pauses in the process, the silence of ideas, images missing in thought until the lightning strikes again. (The artistic layout in this finely crafted Hidden Brook Press edition adeptly reinforces this aspect.)
Some of the poems robe themselves in forms of the past, traditional verse and imagism; others use the conversational style familiar in most recent work; others dress in a style all their own. Overall, though, this is a poetry in which imagination, translated through language as effectively as words can manage, offers us a new, often redirected, often complex view of the world as Way sees it—sometimes funny, sometimes brutal, but always honest, genuine. And always with that ineffable sense that this is a Canadian seeing himself and Canada inside and out, and the world beyond.
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. 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.
In Brian T.W. Way’s redirection, you will find a collection of poems accessible to every reader. Way’s comfort and fluidity in many poetic styles, tones, and voices makes for a volume with variety enough to satisfy even the hungriest of poetic appetites. redirection is a raw and uncensored journey through memory, national and family histories, and confrontation with loss, among many things.
Way’s book of poetry seems aptly titled redirection, shifting as it does from spirited memories to poignant odes. His use of language – playful and exquisite in equal measure – is redolent with allusion and references to popular culture. Evocative content plays opposite syntactical panache, and asks readers to delve deep into their own psyches to interpret vibrant images. Most of the poems in the first half are written in a lyrical or conversational style, and the sonnets in the second are framed by epigraphs from Canadian prime ministers.
Through writings on our nationally and personally shared experiences, Way crafts a new and unique genre of sonnet truly Canadian in form and subject matter. Redirection remolds and reconsiders life’s shared small moments and our national history, in unexpected instants of laughter, grand epiphanies of the divine in everyday life, and the palatable mourning for loved ones lost.
Alexandre den Broeder