- Michael Bullock (Author)
Erupting in Flowers: Poems. Rainbird Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Michael Bullock (Author)
Nocturnes: Poems of Night. Rainbird Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by David Jarraway
Longtime readers of west-coast writer Michael Bullock, a prodigious author of over forty volumes of poetry, fiction, plays and translations, will find familiar territory in his two most recent gatherings of verse under review here. Bullock, referred to previously in this journal as a writer of "gnostic visions," thus continues headlong to enlarge the mystic revelation of earlier work. A poem entitled "Leaf" about halfway through Erupting in Flowers frames the project precisely: "Down the river of memory... I strain to read  mystic hieroglyphs . . . and no clear message / forms in my mind." Bullock’s mystic musings thus proceed from that psychic "life below," as the prefatory "Empty Page" describes it, "bewildering the viewer with its multitudinous variety." And several poems mapping out the generally downward direction of their eponymous "erupting in flowers" (from "Lament for a Vanished Lover") gradually reveal that such musings can become a bewildering strain on Bullock’s audience as well: "depths / from which I may never return" ("Fire and Water"); "the depths of the ocean / [where] the coral speaks to me" ("Coral"); "a tingling / ris[ing] up from the depths in response to its hidden life" ("Still Water"); "plaintive music / that seems to call from the depths of the wood" ("End of a Dream"); etc., etc. Never say once, apparently, what you might be able to say likewise at least a half dozen more times would seem to be the point of many of these transcendental effusions. Hence, "Lost Poem," whose "web of empty words" concludes the volume agonizing over poems "drifting in space," will impart an irony that perhaps even the author had not intended.
The lyrical space closing out the previous volume, the "gap in the blue" that Bullock "seek[s] to fill with words," would appear to be the provocation for his next (and most recent) set of gnostic imaginings, Nocturnes: Poems of Night. However, poems such as "Night’s Piercing Eye" ("Reaching into the depths [for] the most hidden secrets"), "Night River" ("The voice commands me to plunge into the depths / down down"), and "Sacred Spring" ("I plunge into the depths") will quickly reveal that Bullock’s most recent volume holds few surprises. Tired of plunging into all those impenetrable depths, we may be heartened by the slight alteration in a movement beyond suggested by this latest work: "a world beyond the edge of night," for instance, "Perfumes of Night," or "beyond the far horizon" in "Falling Leaves." But haven’t we been there before as well? The strain of repetition begins to take its toll when silliness begins to overtake not a few of Bullock’s newer poems. "Falling Leaves": "Waking, the tree finds itself leafless and alone / in despair it throws itself into the river / and is carried off in pursuit of its vanished leaves." When the silliness begins to infect the prosody of Nocturnes ("the moon booms back like a gong" in "Echo"), or its patterning of imagery ("the refulgence / of the womb" in "Moonbeams," and "a black / womb spattered with diamonds" in "On the Beach"), it just may be time to move past the very project on offer in these two volumes, and try something new. The case could not have been made plainer than by Bullock himself when a poem entitled "The Garbage Bin of Night" pointedly concludes: "From this assemblage of sad detritus / there rises / the melancholy odour / of rotting roses."
- Poèmes de l'Origine by Stéphane Girard
Books reviewed: La Lumière et L'heure by Andrée Lacelle and Tant de vie s'égare by Andrée Lacelle
- The Privilege of Age by Sara Jamieson
Books reviewed: Hand Luggage by P. K. Page and Bright Centre by Elizabeth Brewster
- Abiding Space by Neil Querengesser
Books reviewed: The Occupied World by Alice Major
- The Genial Disconnects by Ted Byrne
Books reviewed: News & Smoke: Selected Poems by Sharon Thesen
- A Poetics of Spatiality by Michael Roberson
Books reviewed: Annihilated Time: Poetry and Other Politics by Jeff Derksen, The Enchanted Adder by Rona Murray, and Shadows on a Wall by Charles E. Israel
MLA: Jarraway, David. Mystic Musings. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 25 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #175 (Winter 2002), francophone / anglophone. (pg. 128 - 129)
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