Today's book of poetry: The Wind River Variations. Brian Brett. Oolichan Books. Fernie, British Columbia. 2012. (Photographs by Fritz Mueller)
Brian Brett took his aging body on series of river expeditions in the summer of 2003. Brett was a member of a party of environmentalists, Native elders, artists, writers and photographers who journeyed to the remote waters of the Wind River, The Bonnet Plume River and the Snake River. These rivers are all feeders to the Peel River which feeds the MacKenzie. Much of this area of the north is under threat from development.
Brett's poems and prose-poems are almost conversational in tone. At times instructive, it's clear that his eyes are always wide open, he is taking everything in. These poems can be amusing and then demanding - but the read is a reward.
The Short, Natural History Of This Mosquito
These northern bugs, they are everywhere,
behind my eyelids, and under my tongue,
committing suicide in the stew,
dancing above the fire,
attacking the insect-eater's beak.
with a single-mindedness
I have to admire -
the fat monster in my tent,
humming every time my breath
hints at the even sound of sleep.
He doesn't know
My eyes are not shut.
The photographs by award winning photographer Fritz Mueller give the book an added level of intimacy and precision that is appealing. These are good photographs and suite the poetry without over shadowing it.
No sentimentality but sensitive poems. No heart-strings but Brett's book is as Jan Zwicky says: "the work of a huge heart".