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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019
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Mike Montreuil, Long ago in a small logging town, A Review by Patricial Prime.

Mike Montreuil, Long ago in a small logging town, Catkin Press, Ontario, Canada. (2018). RRP: NA: $10 CDN (postage incl.) Payment by cheque or PayPal. Rest of World: $14 CDN (postage incl.) Payment by PayPal only. Pb, 35pp. ISBN: 978-1-928163-29-9.

Mike Montreuil’s collection of haibun, Long ago in a small logging town, is dedicated “to the 1970s”. The tone of the book is set by the opening haibun, “High Above”, in which several schoolboys are in awe of the moonwalkers and the spies that are looking down on them from the sky above them:

What simpletons we were, imagining the spy satellite above us, Moving north to south, would do no harm. My friends and I were in high school, with our plastic pocket protectors, still talking about Neil and Buzz walking on the moon, less than half a decade before. The universe had shrunk. (1)

There’s a gentle spirit within this poetry that does not mean it is weak or lacking in bite. Montreuil’s poetry embraces, often simultaneously, the beauty and cruelty in the world, as in “Times Were”, which contemplates where the speaker “first heard of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.”

There’s a reverence for the natural world and the place that our often-bewildered lives have in it that runs throughout this thoughtful collection; for example, in “Allende”, Montreuil writes about the sixties: "

I was always searching for the elusive truth. Did it exist? Neruda confirmed it all. (7)

Everything in the sixties was beginning to be old news. Sex and drugs and rock and roll were here to stay.

They were all teenagers, “telling each other the whys and hows.”

Very succinctly, he captures the ethos of the time. The parallels between the natural world and human aspirations is neatly brought together in an acutely observed poem called “Disco Sucks” (19):

It came on FM radio with a thud. Rod Stewart was the new traitor to rock ‘n’ roll. Disco! Disco! Holy Acapulco Gold!

The poems return often to the key themes and ideas, preoccupations and effects of teenage years and throws them into brilliant relief: a politics of language, social and ecological relationships, how memory works, the perceptual world. And the insulated artificiality of our human environment s vividly foregrounded in “Who were they?” (23):

Who were the PLO, hijacking airliners and blowing them up in the middle of a desert?

the deeds
of a few
memories
lingering

Anyone who has spent time wondering what they’ll do when they retire will instantly recognise the pinpoint accuracy of “Creeping Senility”, in which the poet contemplates his retirement.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m an old fart. Retirement was a few years ago and thank God they gave me a bit of money and not the proverbial gold watch. (33).

Montreuil’s haibun are short, easy to read, but ranging, tenacious, with his rich and intellectually rigorous voice. Tracing his life through that voice will be one of the many pleasure readers take from this collection. It is one to cherish and return to for its intense observation and contemplation.

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