The Age of Revolution. Darren Bifford. Anstruther Press. Toronto, Ontario. 2017.
Ok, Today's book of poetry is in. Any poet who stream of consciousnesswise throws in a line from Sir W.H. Auden's best poem in the world along with Jackson Pollock and the Rue St. Denis, has my full attention. In fact Today's book of poetry is going to celebrate it.
Try this one...
This Sunset Lasts Forever
There must have been a lot of beauty
At the end of empire. Scratch that.
Strictly the usual amount,
More or less, like in a movie
When before he is shot
The soldier considers the dewy grass or the dawn
Over yon golden hills. Which is to say
I doubt it. Consider the fowls of the air and beasts of the field
Christ did not say on the Cross. Why, why, why, why, why, why?
Is closer to the mark. And it was no ordinary day
For those who were otherwise occupied with their lives,
Even given the torturer's horse scratching its innocent behind on a tree.
For there was a breaking sound in the sky;
We were all as terrified as other slow-witted animals, desirous and hungry.
I'm not getting over this in record time. Oh my heavenly days
Is what my grandmother sighed. Now which book will I take?
Will there be a record player? A mistake in these matters
Will commit us to eternal boredom. Help me
With a Jackson Pollock from the MoMA, whose paintings,
In lieu of small fires or snow storms, will serve to increase our contemplative
Capacity. Now if only we could get some help—I mean,
Help with the moving, not the moaning.
I've heard no pianos are housed on the isles of the blessed
Though the wind plays the trees and the trees are willing.
Nor that my will is broken I am either left for dead
Or I shall see them forever: my wife, my little boy. They are crossing
Rue St. Denis on a winter afternoon, holding hands. Flaring in the mind
Awhile longer like a flare shot to the height from which it falls in the night sky,
Tumbling into wine-dark oceans,
We went down to the ship —
The Age of Revolution is an unassuming little chapbook of a mere nine poems - but when Today's book of poetry finished reading it felt like a tome that we'd been waiting for. It was a much larger experience then Today's book of poetry usually finds in nine poems. Expansive.
It is because Darren Bifford's poems are not fast food, these poems have been simmered, they have been stewed and tenderized, until the flavours are all rich and complex.
False Spring Is The New Thing
The first spring is always false. They call
It that because everyone wishes further
Hibernation. There's a town the existence
Of which I learnt when I was a child: all its
Inhabitants sleep as much of the day and night
As is possible. It's a thing to arrive into
Their public square unannounced.
My one practice is to summon indifference
To the most consequential events: what's left
Of the Great Barrier Reef, for instance; the situation
In Syria; my brother's long illness. I wish for a say
In what qualifies as an externality. That woman
In Toronto who, when asked about the last
Federal election, responded I don't know
What that means. The guy next door
With that fucking dog, for instance. Or Mark, who sits
Outside the liquor store, hat in hand, all spring,
Reading. Do I care what he's reading? Not all hope
Is great hope, even given this as if spring.
I've also felt the desire to join the slumber
Of that hidden town behind the mountains.
The kid who made it there came not without
His own questions. As for answers, what seemed
To him like reasons were little better than a roll
Of the dice, a yes and a no and a no and a no.
Today's book of poetry went into Darren Bifford country back in June of 2016 when we looked at his Wedding In Fire Country (Nightwood Editions), and you can see that in the link below:
Today's book of poetry liked Bifford's poems then and we like them now, even more. If the reader pays attention, Bifford reveals it all. The Age of Revolution could just as easily been titled "How I See The World." Well, Darren Bifford seems to have better than 20/20 vision, he sees just fine.
The Age of Revolution is one of those books you readers will thank me for, if you can get your hands on it.
The Scene From Here
So I see near the beach beside the docked
and decommissioned ferry, a makeshift flagpole
on which hangs, half-mast, the French Tricolore.
I run past. The route I take follows
the trail beside the channel, its slow waters
flowing from lake to lake, its currents shallow,
benign, so that no danger troubles the swimmers
who recline and drink on their rubber floats before
they leap in and submerge. Nothing is hidden of summer
in the Valley where all along the shore
children build tiny sand castles, dig twisting moats
into the mud. Lone suckers feed on the lake floor.
It's been a weird July. Every afternoon for over a week
storms break over the mountains—lightning, thunder—
the rain falls hard. Conversation turns to the weather.
What's the worst they've seen (if they've seen it before)
those who've been here a long time can't recall
or won't say, and the weather anyhow has its own way
of doing things. It's easy to stare at the hills and think
about nothing. As if the mountains would have you wander
into them, burrow into a fallen pine needles, stay there.
Soon I turn from the trail and run up-hill on the old track
or where the railroad tracks were that once ran the span
of the valley from the coast into Alberta. History marks
landscape like a scar, like the flesh healed into woven stitches
above my right eye, so that a reddened furrow is cut close
but hardly visible except to those women who've pressed
their fingers there. In the evenings I'm reading Euripides
on my mother's patio, near the lakeshore where a giant peach
is open until late; teenage girls serving ice cream floats
later flutter about the beach above the glow of their cell-phones.
Early in the morning last week I woke to the sound of a voice
announcing on a megaphone the names of marathon runners
as they crossed the finish line. AC/DC's Thunderstruck, applause,
all the spent athletes like in Ovid, that story near the end
about the runner who had escaped the finale of the last age,
when iron returned to fire and fire to sand. He moved like an ant
below the gods who at that point were left with little to do;
they say Apollo caught him easily, pressed him between his finger
and thumb, squished and ground him up until he too was sand,
flicking him down to where he was left with the rest of civilization,
subject to the wind's shifts. In the afternoon my three year old son
learns to swim. I prop him on my knees in the lake, cup my hands
underneath his arms; he does not let me relax my grip but screams
delight and terror when I throw him into the air and let him fall
again into my hands and collapse in my arms, splashing
cold water over his face and hair. He cries because water
is in his eyes and complains that it got into his mouth.
Later, on the sand, he tells me Babi, you protect me. The truth
of what he says, that total trust, turns my heart transparent.
He is a diamond cut into the air. My midway run inclines to dust-
dry ponderosa bluffs, the shelter of my ear like caves carved into the clay
cliffs which rise here on either side, the trail metamorphosed into scree.
The Trojan Women all wail and wail. There is no happy conclusion.
The ships on which they sail take them elsewhere far away.
Last week in Nice a few young drunk Brits took selfies next to a family
mourning their dead. Life returns to normal quickly.
Out on the lake the boats pull skiers; above the water a man
harnessed to a parachute is pulled around awhile. The scene
from here shows him minuscule, like a dead man in an airborne pulley.
What is normal? The air I breathe is dry, dry. The mountain flowers
are yellow. No sound from the trees.
Not even birds.
Darren Bifford's The Age of Revolution, complete as it is, is a teaser. You can't pick it up without wanting more of this intelligent poetry. Bifford can open your heart and your mind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Darren Bifford is the author of Wedding in Fire Country (Nightwood Editions, 2012) and False Spring (Brick Books, 2018). He's the co-editor (with Warren Heiti) of Chamber Music: the poetry of Jan Zwicky (WLUP, 2015). He lives in Montreal.
Interview with Darren Bifford about his poetry collection False Spring
Video: Brick Books
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