I received Conrad DiDiodato's book a few days ago, and took it with me for a couple of afternoon readings on the shaman shack deck at my ZenRiver Gardens retreat. This is a test of sorts - the poetry had to compete for attention with the Moira River's spring run-off, newly arriving songbirds, Chase begging biscuits, cold Zywiec beer, and a nagging kidney stone.
Bridget Bird, Conrad's first collection, passed this literary gauntlet with flying colours. It's hard to believe this is his first book, at age 55. The poetry is masterful, engaging and relaxing. Instead of competing with the constant peaceful distractions, Conrad's poetry flowed as naturally through my afternoons as the river's gurglings and the birdsong serenades. A lesser book wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes, and a bad book risked being flung into the not-so-mighty Moira's flow to the Bay of Quinte.
The familiarity of the circumstances of the first poem grabbed me. Sixteen Mile Creek is the story of an autistic boy who drowns. Two locals died in similar tragic circumstances in the Marmora area last spring. One man took a shortcut home across a too-thawed beaver pond, and never returned alive. His widow and I chatted several night ago in the Mac's Milk parking lot. This introductory poem's synchronicity made me immediately receptive to the book.
Sixteen Mile Creek
At mid-stream, adrift in reedy sand, face down,
he likely caused rifts in this creek.
(for raw hands slap down last,
careless how they land)
Hard like spites in the ear
is the last splash (as only the leaden do, at dawn)
of faith, hearts & poor Ron
Same to god if autistic boys sleep or drown
Cleaving to leaves is futile
unless lights can tell hair from starfish, shoes from shorts
Suns scratch them out, like this,
clothing clotted & sent to port
Poor discounted Ron! I'd say I was the first to see him
and seer enough to shake a few lines loose
out of miles of leaves & sands : &
reedy waters slapped
hard in the autistic ear
This is humane evocative "people's poetry" in the tradition of Canada's greatest poets, Milton Acorn and Al Purdy.
I read on, and began dogearing favourite poems and passages for repeat reading and for writing this reflective review. I should have stopped this task after vandalizing the first few pages - in less than a week the book has that ratty, well-thumbed look of other favourites on my poetry bookshelf : )
from the poem Zebras & Things
But it's an old spidery autumn moon
deep in the night,
prickly, wild-eyed & bright
can poke the water
so full of holes that the stars fall through
& glisten in sandbar
Almost haiku, and maybe even more so!
More sandbars in the poem Lake (no pun intended):
Sandbars, not too far out, a shale-brown foot
below the water
(not a lot down there, in just
a foot of water)
But tides here ripple withe the minnow & serve as
fish- or eel-comfort
Kell Verses is a beautiful homage to poet Katherine L. Gordon
She sits on her stone seat,
beside two tractor wheels,
musing, the jug beneath her feet,
earth of clay round her heels -
dear Kate, prophetess of rivers,
who sends me lone breezes.
When day dies, giving pale slivers
of light, and night freezes.
In just 63 pages of Bridget bird Conrad manages to share his clear-eyed and yet mystic vision. Again, hard to comprehend this is his first collection. And I know he has already written new poems which prove his creative arc is growing. Conrad kindly let me blog post his poem on the recent 'honour killings' of three sisters and their aunt. His heartfelt, yet almost simplistically styled poem, For Zainab,Sahar, Geeti, and Rona, sits among the highest ranking pages of my 300+ postings. To my chagrin, it is the most-read poem on my blog, far ahead of any of my creations. Congratulations and thank you, Conrad, for sharing this fine collection. 55 years is far too long to wait for your next collection ; )
Bridget bird by Conrad DiDiodato
Serengeti Press, 2012
Box 146, RR #3
Edited by Jeff Seffinga (no wonder the poetry is so damn good!)
reflective review by Chris Faiers
For several years I was a regular poetry reviewer for Canadian Book Review Annual.
I've also reviewed for the haiku mag Inkstone as well as other poetry mags.
Recently I was a national judge for both the Acorn/Plantos People's Poetry Medal
and the annual Canadian Poetry Association contest.
credit: This review and Conrad's poem For Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Roma was published in
Quinte Arts Council's magazine Umbrella, May/June 2012, Volume 22, Number 2 - p. 7
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Conrad DiDiodato has left a new comment on your post "reading Conrad's poetry on the shaman shack deck (...":
the "16 Mile Creek" (in Oakville) poem is based on a true incident, about 10 years back. It's actually one of my favourites (of course, Bridget bird is numero uno)Most of these poems are actually at least a decade old. And your perceptive eyes saw the 'haiku' influence: I was for many years involved in an active Eastern community where I met some amazing people.
Thanks for a kind and compassionate reading of a book it's taken this ultra-late bloomer a long time to write.
Have a good one!
Posted by Conrad DiDiodato to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 27 March 2012 10:39
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C Duffy has left a new comment on your post "reading Conrad's poetry on the shaman shack deck (...":
Do pass on my congratulations to Conrad Didiodato on his first book in print. I'm leaving this comment here because for some reason I am unable to leave it at his own blog.
Posted by C Duffy to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 29 March 2012 10:08
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