Saturday, March 03, 2007

Brad Evans: and them and the jackals and the night

Reviewed by: Victor Schwartzman

I've emailed Brad, and he me. He lives in England, I live in Canada, and although we are both metric, we have never met. It all started when he emailed me with a request to review his book.

I liked what little I read at first, but wrote him that, given this book certainly gives a reader her money's worth--at 226 pages, it is not a slim volume--I would review it if I liked it, but not all of it. Too many poems, too little time! So I agreed to review only the political poems. I'm not fond of poems about the poet's girl or boy friends, her/his sex life and so on--just in general, nothing specific with Brad's work. My personal interest is in poems that want to change the world. Brad wants to change the world as here we are!

Where can you get this book? Good question. It is a DIY (Do It Yourself) book, i.e. independently published. Not that Brad has not been published before--the 'rap sheet' of print and online magazines which have published his poetry is lengthy indeed. If I were you, I'd email Brad at and ask to purchase a copy.

The "political" poems are in the "and the jackals" section. And how are they political? And what do they look like? And why should you care?

Check this out:

his first job

we competed for the same

in the end

Kevin got it,

began to pull in the wages
of an apprentice-


and the Boss got him

quick & mean,

and soon Kevin was breaking up
a swaying sea

of porkers and beef

over hooks of


I'd be there, watching him
sweat his

ring out

while the Boss sat &

it was later
that Kevin told me about

his near misses with
the blades

and how he almost cracked his skull
against the slimy

floor of the refrigeration

and then one day he slipped
with a

blunt boning knife,

felt the blade in his left

and I said to him

"Man, quit the fucking job, the Boss
is chewing you up!"

"Bullshit", he laughed.

and then in the following week

slipped again,

with blood bursting out of his right

he limped to the surgery with
soaked towels

& by the end of Xmas, Boss felled
him with

a nervous breakdown...

3 years later,

Kevin got his certificate

and quit,

went into something

the building

but that's another

The writing is direct, each word carefully chosen, measured against the next. Love that sly mention of "the building game"--any one who has worked in construction knows how safe that is!! This 'story poem' worked for me. It was about real life, a life most poets would not wish to touch unless a gun was pointed at their head: life for regular working people. Life in the slaughterhouse. There is a lot of truth in this poem. You should reread it.

I once had a investigation case involving a slaughter house. The most striking impression when I walked in was how cold it was, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The workers wore white coats, but underneath they wore jackets to stay warm. Can you imagine how difficult it would be working in such cold temperatures every day? Not to mention cutting up a pig for a living?

Brad's spare style works well throughout his writing, whether a story poem or something more direct. For example, in on being asked how I felt about australia's involvement in East Timor he does not deliver a lecture, but instead creates an image of a desert, where a flock of vultures feed on a carcass, a "benign brotherhood" of carrion. Nice imagery!

Then there is this one:

classroom incident

my voice
my presence

reminds him
of his father

but I don't know it,
until he breaks down
and cries by the whiteboard.

and not being a father
I am not aware of the importance
until now...

as 8 y.o. Jamie
tells me his father
is nurturing a company


out of

Too bad dad is not nurturing his child instead of the company, eh? Such spare lines, such full meaning! This is almost simplistic writing (because on the surface there are no flowery passages, no self indulgent pompous poetics) with an unmistakable underlying depth.

As with any book containing so many poems, inevitably some read weaker than others. Some feel...slim...compared to the ones I have quoted in this review. But the vast majority of the poems are very much worth your time, and they are all about something. The "jackals" section could really exist on its own, with very few trims.

And though I may not want to admit it, the romantic poems were...well, okay, I'll write it, gritting my teeth: I liked many of them, they were, okay gosh, romantic.

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