Robert Currie’s Shimmers of Light: New and Selected Poems uses the vernacular of ordinary working people to tell stories and sing songs of small-town prairie life. Like Alden Nowlan, or more recently, Billy Collins, this poet constructs poems from the unvarnished wood of common language—there’s no veneer, no glossing over here.
These poems “work like small exquisite time machines . . .” writes poet Lorna Crozier in her introduction to this extensive collection of work dating from the 1970s to the present day. Currie’s poems powerfully evoke the reality of prairie life, with a frequent focus on the hard exteriors men and boys are expected to present to the world, despite the swarm of doubt and conflict roiling inside them. The characters who populate these poems are subject to difficult weather, internal and external, but their lives are sometimes illuminated by “a sudden radiance”: a deeper understanding of self, a breathtaking expanse of sky, the generosity of a friend or lover.
The beauty of the unflinching rhythm and cadence of the poems brings light to the darker corners of even the most painful times. From a father’s tenderness in the face of his young son’s fears, to the death of a lifelong friend from ALS, to earlier narrative poems about depression-era deprivation and hardship, this work is carefully crafted, deeply honest, and open-hearted. With a foreword by Lorna Crozier and an afterword by Mark Abley.