Miscellaneous Wreckage. Greg Simison. Thistledown Press. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 2014.
In Greg Simison's fourth collections of poetry, Miscellaneous Wreckage, he is letting all his ya-ya's out. There are some absolutely hilarious divorce poems wafting around inside this madhouse of humour and stiff-upper-lip resolution. Simison's poems sound like your favourite smart-ass uncle ruminating with educated candor.
There are no poetry tricks, gimmicks or hysterics. These are salt of the earth, steady, sturdy poems.
Think of Raymond Souster with a couple of wise scotch into him.
Dreams of the Grand Banks
Amateur anthropologists, we sift
through rock mounds in the field looking
for artefacts: pounders, scrapers, awls
and spear points, gathered and tossed here,
broken and twisted beyond any use, alongside
all the miscellaneous wreckage of farm life.
And though no stone tools reveal
themselves, digging through the third pile
we soon expose the old, disjointed bones of
a man's life: a dozen Johnnie Walker bottles,
evidence of a love of whiskey; the rusted cans of
Repeater, his tobacco brand, and what we first take
to be an old shed roof, on closer
inspection, turns out to be the bleached
ribs of a homemade rowboat. So this strange
country delivers yet one more mystery:
a boat in the middle of a wheatfield. The closest
lake, three miles to the north, alkaline and lifeless
since the last ice age; the closest fish,
ten miles to the west, unless we count the
bony few swimming through rock fifty feet
beneath the ground where he himself now floats.
Of course, ever the romantic, I start reconstructing
a dreamer: a homesick fisherman, new immigrant
or hopeful maritimer with a one-way
ticket, swapping one sea for another, only to
find himself marooned, a landlocked homesteader
with no way back when the dream finally turned
to dust. And I imagine him out there late at
night, seated in the stranded boat, washed up on that
stone island, sipping whiskey and
drunkenly arguing with the indifferent
moon. Rolling one-handed smokes in the
dark, he lights the wooden matches with a
blackened thumbnail, creating sudden small stars,
but stars too brief and too late to steer an old sailor home.
Today's book of poetry thinks, as the poet has already confessed, that Simison is a hopeless romantic in slightly grumpy skin. We took a poll around the office and eventually came to a consensus, we here at Today's book of poetry believe that Simison has a large gold ring in one of his ears in case he buys the farm on a foreign shore.
He is clearly a pirate.
The comedy and ease of these heartwarming poems disguise a specific moral code of conduct that Simison has built his voice around. He doesn't waver and we like this voice. It is smart, brash, bold and ultimately - very tender.
After they took his leg to slow down the
cancer, I visited one evening and announced
he may as well have had a sex change
because from them on I'd be calling him Peggy.
He retaliated in a hoarse whisper
that despite the fact I was God's own fool,
he was still prepared to cut me
a deal on a barely worn right shoe,
but quickly changed the subject, knowing
within a month I'd have the pair for nothing.
If you are lucky you have a Greg Simison in your life. A wise/wisecracking decoder, someone who tells the terrible truth with compassion. These poems grow on you, they compound, and collectively they hum.
Simison has made no attempt to package these poems as a narrative, each poem stands alone, yet cumulatively coalesce into something important. Miscellaneous Wreckage would make Simison's proper and prim mother proud, it is tea on the table.
My brother calls at 1 a.m.
to tell me the ambulance has
taken her to the Civic Hospital,
suggests it would be best
if I flew out as soon as possible.
I call my children with the news.
Book a ticket. Pack a suitcase.
With terrible practicality, learned
at her side, include a black suit, A tie.
And realize, on perhaps
this longest night of our lives,
we're all simply small children
who've only been outside
playing grownups until our
mothers call us home, one last time.
Reading Miscellaneous Wreckage was like meeting up with an old friend and hearing all their stories. Greg Simison writes with just the right amount of distrust and disdain to disguise how much his loves this world and all of us in it.
ABOUT THE AUTHORGreg Simison was born in Guildford, England, and came to Canada as a child. He is the author of four books of poetry. His latest collection, Miscellaneous Wreckage, was released by Thistledown Press in 2014. Simison spent eight years writing a weekly column for a small newspaper in B.C. , and was both scriptwriter and director for Organized Crimes, a theatre company that produced more than twenty-five Murder Mystery events throughout the Okanagan Valley. He currently resides in Moose Jaw.
The poems in Miscellaneous Wreckage are always approachable, marked as they are by a sense of humour and a light touch, by surprising turns of phrase and clever twists of thought. Greg Simison is the kind of poet who knows that crows and ravens are 'properly dressed year round / for either death or dining out'. Simison, however, is firmly on the side of life, inheriting from an English mother the notion that troubles are best met by heating up the kettle and 'getting on with this living business'.
- Robert Currie, author of Running in Darkness and Witness
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