CARILLONNEUR by Tony Cosier
Penumbra Poetry Series, Vol. 68
Penumbra Press, Newcastle, ON, (fall) 2012, 96pp.
Reviewed by: Ronnie R. Brown
It is a real joy to discover a new Tony Cosier/Penumbra collaboration since both poet and press have a long-standing reputation for excellence and Carillonneur only serves to enhance that
Born and raised in B.C., Cosier has been part of the Ottawa writing scene for decades. An Ottawa high school English teacher for thirty years, Cosier now writes full time. The author of nine previous poetry collections, five plays, a novel and a short story collection, Cosier has been short-listed three times for the Ottawa Book Awards and was a finalist four times (twice with honourable mention) for Ottawa's Archibald Lampman Award for poetry.
Carillonneur, Cosier's tenth poetry book, offers strong narrative lines supported by equally strong descriptive technique. Cosier paints a picture then allows the reader to enter into it. Opening with an introductory poem, the collection is then divided into four sections: Natural Things; Saw Music; Playwright; and My Mother's Dance.
As might be expected, Natural Things deals with the world around us. A long-time nature photographer, Cosier's writings often deal with the beauty and ferocity Mother Nature offers up . And given poems like "Ladies' Lookout," a place and poem that seems to suggest a picnic at which
ladies' "...flirt in breeze -tilted hats/" but is, in fact, a kind of widows' watch where wives and daughters
looked with "eyes that strained through the mist" for loved ones off at sea, or poems describing meadows where hay in "fifty golden rolls/ burn like planets in the sun/," or even a few old churches whose doors"...swing a wide open welcome," it is clear Cosier is both aware and wary of the natural world.
Saw Music, on the other hand, is comprised of a series of poems which explore and pay homage to creativity as evidenced by the lives of musicians, artists and poets. It is here that the reader can
experience Mozart composing his first Mass with "Haydn mentoring over his shoulder/" watching "...notes emerging on the page." Here too, is Anna Van Gogh realizing her son's genius and understanding "the underswelling he feels." And, of course, there is the promised "saw music"
of the section's title complete with the saw's "...shrill notes..." quavering "eerily."
Playwright continues with the theme of Saw Music, but instead of looking at various
creators, it , instead, a suite of poems about the Irish playwright John Millington Synge who
slipped away to the sound of "...all the women of Ireland/ keening all their dead."
In the collection's final section, My Mother's Dance, Cosier explores his own past and the tight family bonds that helped to shape his life and his work. Here even the B.C. mountains can be seen as a playmate, one who has "...rolled up its rounded bulk..." and is "hunched like a frog ready to jump with you," or appear "snow capped" and dancing "flexing their glaciers like wings."
Those who are looking for the ultra-modern or the super trendy should be fore-warned -- Cosier's
poems are not the product of a computer program, nor are they derived from lines hastily jotted on napkins. What Cosier gives the reader in Carillonneur are well-edited pieces of writing which pay homage to the past while still advancing the art of poetry. Be assured, the final product is a beautiful and memorable collection that should be read--and then read again.
RONNIE R. BROWN is an Ottawa writer. The author of six books of poetry, she has been short-listed three times for the Acorn-Plantos People's Poetry Award, winning in 2006 for STATES OF MATTER (Black Moss, 205). Her most recent collection is ROCKING ON THE EDGE (Black Moss, 2010.)