chrysanthemum petals/spilled onto
John Wall Barger, Hummingbird (Kingsville: Palimpsest, 2012). Paperbound, 75pp., $18.
Anyone who writes with the flourish and intensity of John Wall Barger deserves to be read and re-read. His ability to linger over a scene, to ruminate over its history and give himself over to the poetic impulse is complete and genuine. That capacity reaches its apex in the title poem of Hummingbird, a wild subterranean journey into the underbelly of modern Mexico that takes as its model similar descents in the works of Homer, Virgil and Dante:
Barger not only asks questions, but in the intemperate fashion of Dante and Virgil before him tries to participate in the assault unfolding before him, only to be held back by his guide on the journey, the much loved Mexican poet Octavio Paz. Unlike his predecessors, however, Paz remains silent and promises nothing beyond what other artists, Seamus Heaney and the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, among them, are pleased to teach Barger going forward. No idealized Beatrice or souls of the dead await John Wall Barger by journey’s end, only a communion with great poets there to invigorate Barger’s art:
(Edited verisons of these reviews originally appeared in The Malahat Review, October 23, 2012)