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The Big Thirst
reviewed by Ryan Pastorchik

The Big Thirst and Other Doggone Poems,
Jim Christy
Ekstasis Editions




Jim Christy’s The Big Thirst and Other Doggone Poems continues the ambling visions of this veteran, vagabond author. A collection of 46 poems, its vignettes draw from rides along switchbacks, and from diverse topics in a raw, but still charming voice that has led to him being called a Canadian Indiana Jones.

Published following Christy’s 69th birthday, the collection takes a hard look at growing old. What the process feels like varies, depending on where you open the book. With his first new poem, “The Old Painter,” Christy reveals that age lends sturdiness and knowledge. It is the “fir tree with fur / So thick it doesn’t stir / In the breeze” that outshines the “late-June poplars that have lost their youthful glow.” A little further along, Christy reveals that getting old is a fearsome road he contemplates rebelling against. Rather than succumbing to the playing-card kingdom of the retired, Christy intends to maintain his maverick image, envisioning geriatric erotic conquests, stoop-shouldered evasions of authority, and reaching a final climax as “A legend at last” (“Elder Legend”).

As the visions of aging are conjured, Christy balances past and present with the former carrying more weight. The balance is a reflection on the shifting views of history that all generations contemplate.

Occasionally there is dialogue between the poems. In several instances, poems lie next to one another and communicate. Noteworthy is the chatter between “Christy, You’re Becoming a Recluse On That Farm; Isn’t There Anything About The Present That You Like?” and “Immortal Rural Canada Sunday Summer Afternoon.” In the first, Christy laments a life of luxury, of unnecessary complication, of divergence from the raw past. He pines for “a world without raspberry vinaigrette.” Juxtaposed with these frustrations with the modern world, Christy paints a multi-cultural, multi-generational scene of hard-work, modern machines, and portraits of a less urbanized life where it’s impossible not to participate in the community.
This is a collection full of waning legacies and leather-tough depictions of experience, but Christy provides the reader with thoughtful, impacting glimpses of real crises that are made all the more startling as they grab your collar, making you bear witness from within the company of his other poems. One such, “By The Shores Of Cuyahoga Were Shed A River Of Tears,” takes us to the haunting scene of a flaming river: the result of humanity’s vainglory and narcissism. Amidst the chemical-drenched, tar-thick scene, Christy shows a connection to environment that cannot be forgotten.

Within 80 pages, The Big Thirst tours the reader through aging, the past, the environment, music and style, beauty and sex—all with the grit and off-handedness that has led to Christy’s placement amongst the countercultural crowd of Bukowski, jazz, country and the Beats.

Ryan Pastorchik holds degrees from UFV and Simon Fraser University. He works in alternative education in the B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

This review first appeared in Pacific Rim Review of Books #20