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A Lamb by P.W. Bridgman
reviewed by Bill Arnott

A Lamb
P.W. Bridgman
Ekstasis Editions


P.W. Bridgman is not who he appears to be. He belongs in a comic book. Not Marvel but DC, a justice league of one. But unlike his superhero peers, Bridgman’s alter ego hangs up his crime fighting, cape-like robes at day’s end, nighttime his creative fortress of solitude, afterhours his poetic domain.

I don’t know if this is in fact true. I like to believe so. I’ve spent time with both characters – the likeable Bruce Wayne persona as well as skilled poet P.W. Bridgman. A Lamb not only welcomes us into the author’s realm, but props open the door to his secret citadel. Bridgman’s musicality and romance language fluency come through in meter, tempo and an umami-esque richness in each lyrical line. His narrative style can seamlessly deliver razor wit – BAM – with a heart-rending KAPOW!

From the outset, lamb triggers a mosaic of metaphor – frailty, play, sacrifice, and slaughter. Our journey’s mapped, Charon sporting a sardonic grin in “Time’s Forward Gear” as the ferryman loosens a hawser line: “Mister D’Eath leans calmly in the doorway – / spectral, handsomely framed, a stylish flâneur.”

Bridgman simultaneously guides and conducts, directing the reader while encouraging free jazz interpretation. “Three Lamentations” bebops us from “7/4 Time” through “Thirty-Six Bars” with an al coda skip to “Sonnet Form,” pulling us back toward the boat with a bard’s barbs. But in “No Writers Were Harmed in the Making of This Whiskey,” we simply can’t shake the hook, coaxed on monofilament to an inevitable net and priest: “Kathleen, Fionnuala and Valeria revel in their / unknowing freedom. Glad and carefree, they / periodically check their new highlights and twilights / in the Vauxhall’s rear-view mirror. They laugh / and chatter while, as the afternoon fades, / Kathleen drives them all home from the hairdresser’s / in Magherafelt back to Knockcloghrim – / to Knockcloghrim where a cheap quartz clock / ticks bravely on and where, like an unexploded artillery shell, / the end of the world awaits their return.”

Another nod to Northern Ireland and the Ulsterbus bombing, which Bridgman weaves home to Vancouver by way of Heaney and Sinéad Morrissey in “There Was Fire in Magherafelt” – a tidy transatlantic crisscross: “There were no surviving signs, no pitting of nearby concrete even / (we looked); / no memorials nor misspelled spray-can epitaphs: Tiocfaidh ár lá!”

Yet our author/mediator knows precisely when we’re due for recess from deliberation, with “V-P Sales, One Year Into Retirement” delivering laconic humour: “New man-bun. / Same / old / head.”

And on our side of the pond Bridgman once more pays poetic homage, this time to the best blacksmith in “The Purdy Poems,” with “Party of the Second Part” and “For God’s Sake, Geddes, Call Him ‘Al.’” To my delight I was there to witness Bridgman wave his bladed poem at a receptive Geddes, like a well-versed, affectionate mugger: “I didn’t guess, tho, that at sixty- / five I’d sit myself down to / pen you a jeezly billet- / doux; that I’d find myself / writing you a god- / damned, buck / knife-shaped / love po- / em”

No, P.W. Bridgman is not who he appears to be. The mild-mannered crime fighter leads a double life as accomplished poet. A Lamb proves it. I didn’t intend to unmask the man. Kindly keep it a secret. Our metropolis needs him.

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling nonfiction author of Dromomania and Gone Viking. Sales generate donations to numerous charities. His poetry, articles and reviews are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. Bill’s series Left Coast Poetry Beat is published by the League of Canadian Poets and the Federation of BC Writers.