Bird Beast and Lover

Les Éditions Ink Inc., 1994

Reviewed by Gabriele Codifava

A Summer Man

Light and contrast of light is the distinctive, stylistic feature of Bird Beast and Lover by Arthur Adamson. As with every journey of initiation, Adamson’s is configured as a transition between two places, a transfiguration, a re-birth or simply a transformation or bridging between two elements, usually in conflict. In many poems, if not all, we can track down polarities, openly described by means of oxymora (for example, whiteness that blinds in “The Whiteout,” dazzling darkness in “The High Risers,” reassuring disorder in “Out of the Wood,” dark fire in “Death in the Marsh” and vegetable flesh in “Witchery” and juxtaposed couples of polar elements (day/night, summer/winter, life/death, light/darkness, which are present throughout the poems) or otherwise implicitly expressed in the general mood of the poems (could a tree be happy while dying?)1. The reference to Orpheus (“the head sang down the river to the sea”)2 might not be by chance; the disembodiment symbolizes the deepest possible conflict becoming mystically reconciled by means of music, “a far off music under the fall of the sea.” In fact, despite whatever possible friction of opposites, there might be a pathway, paths of night (“Near Plum Coulee”), which leads somewhere, to an unveiled destination. Actually, there is not a certain destination, but only a “Way,” which is framed with questions: where would I find the hollowness, the zero of the world I know (“Now that God”)?


1. A reference to the line, “my wife and children dress/the dying happy tree/livening its numbness in poem” from “The Angel the Chain the Raven.”

2. From “Back from Greece: In the House of Prairie.” Adamson. See also Virgil, Georgics, Book IV, 532-527.

This review is excerpted from a longer piece published in CV2.

Physicist by education, Gabriele Codifava is a humanist by election, even though this passion is concealed in a private realm. On staff, a member and collaborator of the Italian Poetry Association, Il Ponte del Sale, Gabriele has also published essays in literary magazines such as Tratti and Yale Italian Poetry, Yale University. He recently moved to Winnipeg from a place in Italy where two rivers join in the middle of a vast cultivated land — a long trip from one prairie to another.