Essays & Reviews

Review of Every Shameless Ray by P.W. Bridgman, “#725 Tenebrous and illuminating,” Ormsby Review, 2020

“…powerful … evocative… adventurous…”

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Essay: “A Q&A with Leslie Timmins, author of Every Shameless Ray”.

If you are interested in getting your manuscript published or working with a mentor, check out this mini-essay I wrote for the Humber College website.

Reviews of Every Shameless Ray by Candice James, Poet Laureate Emeritus (New Westminster, BC), Canadian Poetry Review, Issue 10

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… Timmins is a master of strong and vibrant opening lines… In “Anatta” the opening three lines immediately set the stage…: “When the pack horses carrying you to your gold rush / grow gaunt, buck off their burden, desert you, / even your enemy is lost.”… “The Stoning” bypasses all exteriors and speaks directly to the synapses…: “If you enter here / a scarlet sky will ache behind you”… “The Prevailing Wind” is an amazing poem … with a strong first stanza …: “An eagle liquid as a manta ray swims / the visible shallows of wind. / the tallest trees shake, branches bounce / and we breathe it in and our ribs unlace,/ our flesh, so easily, wing.”

So many lines coil around my heartstrings and wrap my spirit in warmth as evidenced in this line from the poem “How the Heart Grows Strong Again”: “I know when I’m lost / I should take any road the land offers / from the end of love to whatever comes after”

Many of the poems… open the windows and throw back the curtains to expose the multi-dimensional landscape of Timmins’ exquisite mindset. This book is well worth reading.

Leslie Timmins’ Book Reviews for EVENT 48/3 (2020)

Social isolation, exclusion and the power of human connection are explored with unexpected humour in John Wall Barger’s The Mean Game, (Palimpsest Press, 2019), Lindsay Bird’s Boom Time, (Gaspereau Press, 2019) and Matthew Walsh’s These are not the potatoes of my youth, (Goose Lane Editions, 2019).

In The Mean Game, poet John Wall Barger is a brilliant improv artist, inhabiting multiple personas and voices and showing off a comic, compassionate inventiveness that reminded me of the great satirical writers Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Jonathan Swift. In the poem `At the Front’ people are trained in `patriotic camps` so they can `slay the savage Abbieannians/ before they slayed us.` Repeated in the poem, the enemy’s name elicits laughter: just how savage can the Abbieannians be? Yet as they march through dense smoke at the front, the people’s ‘weapons [are] drawn, as taught.’ Face-to-face across trenches, however, when the friendly enemy waves to the people, ‘We laid our gun down/  & sat with them in the grass / beside a river / that cried like a human.` Exposing the absurd tropes of war, the poem allows a powerful truth – human’s desire not to kill each other.

Like many of Barger’s apparent subjects, war in ‘At the Front’ can be read as representing any number of misconceptions about the Other. In ‘The Stiltwalkers` an imperialist speaks as no imperialist would, candidly:

We arrived on horseback. The locals
pooled around us, faces kind & open.
They bought us parrots, balls of cotton…
We poisoned the water. Burned the temples
… We designed their poverty from scratch.
… Introduced a law: the feet of each local…
would be severed & upon each stump
a tall wooden stilt be sown

Somehow, the locals drive the marauders away. The one imperialist remains, hobbling on stilts to blend in and witnesses miraculous adaptations: the locals ‘have grown eloquent/ in walking. Running faster than we ever could./ … Their young born/ stilted.` In envy he watches the adults dance on their stilts, `lope like puppets/ & never fall. Women gyrate in a ring around the bonfire./ Behind, the men jump, ever higher, calling for love./ Women catch them.` As they spin they `sing in a collective low/ moan the joy of their dark hearts like gods.`

As an allegory of healing and resistance `The Stiltwalkers` is astonishing. The people’s uplifted view is the grace of a wound shared, allowing for a natural connection within a community of those who do not hide their wounds in shame, but integrate them. And who is excluded from this communal joy? He who inflicts the wound, masks his true self and takes no responsibility.

The Other situated in oneself wields considerable power in `Deus Ex Machina` in which a man called Viktor is consumed by addiction. Viktor once manufactured illegal drugs and now lurches around his room high and haunted by the `buried bodies` who took those drugs. When the god-machine of the title appears, it descends through the roof as a beast with ‘brick hide,/ guard tower eyes,/ barbwire wings—/ … scooping Viktor up.` This beast has the physical attributes of a prison, a place where Viktor might answer for his crimes and recover from addiction.

Almost every poem has a different speaker – human, animal, oppressed, oppressor, child or adult. This constantly destabilized my expectations, requiring a creative participation that ultimately widened my empathic range. And although Barger’s protagonists are mostly unable to undo the damage they do, or receive justice for the damage done to them, he suggests when humans are loved, it’s a deus ex machina unlike any other.

Read the full review.