Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gary Geddes' Falsework

Gary Geddes' seventeenth book of poetry, 2007's Falsework, operates in that curious mix of poetic construction and prose patchwork. The concentration of prose isn't limited to the well-structured one- or two-page narrative characterizations, but are also evident in the poems. Though syntagms are suitably startling -- "seconds. Girders, piers, elephantine" -- , mimicking the fall from Vancouver's collapsing Second Narrows bridge during construction in 1958, far too many passages are flabby and awkward. Entire poems escape the tangled outlay:"Over-Easy" is a powerful, elegant exception. But more representative is "Great Blue": "From my bedroom window I watched the blue heron,//as precise and accurate as an accountant, balance". All three two-letter words beginning with "a" in the second line could be eliminated for greater musical felicity and dramatic impact, and either adjective is redundant. There's an effecting interchange between dangerous action and intelligent reflection throughout the creative reworking of a gripping story long past its one-week news flash, and that only heightens the frustration at the divide of imagistic force and the fatal falsework at the heart of the book's condemnation. Geddes has set down an admirable archival and imaginative investigative account of the grim, gross failures of Dominion Bridge and Swan Wooster and Associates. Unfortunately, though the multi-voiced poems emit heat (and often light) on the local tragedy, they're riddled with the same poorly engineered grillage of that massive span. As Geddes has one of his speakers reveal, "We die a little/when a structure fails."

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