Richard Harrison’s 2005 collection of poetry Worthy of His Fall was published by Wolsak and Wynn; at only $15 for 78 pages of poetry, it is a bargain.
From the museum-like hooked dagger display on the dark green cover through to the father-and-son themes of the poetry, Worthy of His Fall is clearly oriented to issues of men -or at least, of the man who happens to be a poet. Despite a culture that is taking much-needed steps to include marginalized and under-represented voices, there is still much worth in hearing the thoughts, concerns and emotions of male poets.
In fact, even back in 2005, Harrison included some sensitive and well-considered lines which anticipated this decade’s work to ensure that all voices have opportunity to be heard. From The Margaret Laurence I Can Tell you I Knew or An Elegy for Tiff, A Poem for Bill (Harrison’s self-conscious feeling homage to other, perhaps more widely recognized, Canadian literary figures) through to lines in his A Short Story About String which expose the cultural perplexities that pile up across any person’s decades of life,
Now I look back and see a thin white boy
tipping on his collarbone the sign of a religion
neither his own nor by his people loved:
That I lost the thing is “undoubtedly right”….
In 78 pages, Harrison ponders the wearing-down and death of his father and the birth and growing-up of his children. It is a collection situated in decades and is composed of love and living that is not transitory but long and complicated. Perhaps my favorite line in the collection is “Anyone who marches is in an army.” which is simultaneously many things – a pithy backhand from an elder generation, title of a poem and the kind of lyrical political statement that should sit heavily on a generation. I particularly recommend the poem, 1934 as well.
I appreciate the inspection that Harrison provides of war-issues; again, a lens which considers decades is the determining factor. Harrison discussed an older generation’s personal experience and scars from war and how those scars may direct relationships through; he also analyzes issues of conflict and peace as seen by his own generation. Given that it is today a decade since the publishing of the volume, it is tempting to reflect on all that has been learned even in that time and even by those of us who have continued to avoid the slimy touch of horror in our lives.
According to Wikipedia and the Mount Royal University website, Harrison is a professor of English and a bit more research suggests he’s won some awards and honours for his endeavors. I’ve read the collection a few times in the weeks that I’ve had it and I expect to pull it off the shelf again.
Photo: Trumpet Vine in St. Thomas Ontario; photo taken with a Blackberry July 2016 (yes, I still use a Blackberry).