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Volume 40.1
Winter 2009

book review:

Waking on the Bridge
by Martin Shea

Waking on the Bridge, by Martin Shea (Winchester, Va.: Red Moon Press, 2008). 64 unnumbered pages; 4  x 6 . Glossy two-color cover; black endpapers; perfectbound. ISBN 1-978-893959-71-2. $12.00 from the publisher.

Reviewed by Paul Miller

Martin Shea has been writing haiku for more than forty years, and the skill set that evolved over that time is evident in his new collection. Waking on the Bridge is broken up into six sections that tell an all too familiar story. The first section, “Less of Her,” has a fairly understandable narrative.

moving out tomorrow
their
sounds now

Shea has a good grasp of structure. I like how “their” stands alone on the second line. Another:

on the wind somewhere a
child, crying
here

The truncated first line leaves the reader hanging a bit, wondering what it is that is on the wind. Isolating the child and its crying on the second line acts the same as “their” in the previous poem. In the sharp third line, the “somewhere” becomes “here.” It is both the feeling of the poet and also perhaps the cry of an abandoned child. In this collection, “Less of Her” becomes a starting point.

From there, however, mirroring the poet’s own conflicted feelings of isolation, in sections like “The Shining” and “Switching Trains,” the physical landscape is less identifiable. One poem from each:

the shadow of my hand
goes down to where the fish
can feel

     in the lull
of the waves, for
    a moment

If there is a thematic distinction between these middle sections I find it hard to grasp. Both most often locate the poet primarily on a shore or at various kinds of borders, watching children, and feeling loss. The next sections find the poet back in the city, but changed by these circumstances. In the last section. “Criteria,” the poet finds some small perspective, if not an understanding.

just across the hedge—
the moon
in that world

In a book of forty-two poems, especially poems with such emotional longing and weight, pacing is important. So I can appreciate the need for section breaks. In Waking on the Bridge, however, the purpose behind them is not always obvious. Still, Shea easily has command enough of his poetry to help us through. While there are some poems that I am still struggling with, Waking on the Bridge is a satisfying read.


 

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