Saturday, February 24, 2007


We get many review copies of poetry collections and most are never reviewed for lack of time, energy or quality. I recently recieved a rather ostentatious looking collection -- hard bound and decorated with a Düreresque woodcut by what appeared at first glance to be an academic poet. Well, first impressions aside I try to view every collection with an open mind. It's good thing because despite the uppity presentation this is one monstrously great collection of poetry. The collection is called Fortune by Joseph Millar and I feel very fortunate to have recieved it. It's even inspired me to write a few poems and that is the best thing any poetry can do. Millar has been around the block a few times. Before his present job teaching at Oregon State University, he worked many jobs from commercial fisherman to telephone repairman. A life fully lived shows in this rich collection but rather than shower this collection with a heap of high sounding accolades, I prefer to post a sample and let the work speak for itself:

Sockeye Delivery
You never knew the price we'd be paid
when we pulled along side to deliver,
the tide smoking past us at seven knots
jerking the tie-up lines tight,
and Aretha chanting Chain of Fools
from the gurry-streaked deck speakers
under the wheelhouse.
You had so much to think about:
boat payments, fish cops, feul costs, time,
while the canvas brailers swung across deck
trailing thick strands of wild salmon blood
and the washdown hose blasted into our fish holds
knocking loose broken-off gill plates and scales.

How many times you lifted us into the tender's
floating stage of diesel and tar and ice.
We drifted the western edge of the continent,
a mile offshore, invisible in the shadows,
while somewhere beyond the pocked skin
of the tundra, you knew the aqua-farmed salmon
were swimming in circles through their own waste,
swallowing dog food and anti-biotics.
Overhead the Dow Jones computers
sang through the frozen latitudes
and we listened to the hydraulics groan in the wind
passing the bloodstained bags of new silver
from one rusted hull to the next
over the slate-colored waves.

This collection is published by the Eastern Washington University Press and priced at $22.95. Though the hard-bind has made it more costly, it is well worth the price and we highly recommend it.