Michael Harris’s first poetry collection since his Governor General’s Award-nominated Circus (2010), The Gamekeeper assembles a thoughtful selection of the Montreal poet’s accomplished verse. With evocative imagery and a natural sense of rhythm, Harris writes of illness, pain, marriage, death, imaginary fairy-tale monsters, and much else. The result, according to one reviewer, "straddles a position between the carnivalesque and the sensual."
In The Gamekeeper, Michael Harris presents poems of sorrow, sensuality, quirkiness and humour—a grand variety of takes on the mortal landscape.
With sharp wit and unaffected music, Harris handles the human and natural worlds with equal sensitivity. Of an apple tree, for instance, he says, "and the apple tree’s victory stays / stiff-necked, full of thrash / in its iron-bare head of black antler." Considering Emily Dickinson in a poem entitled "Death," we are drawn into the protagonist’s world with "Weathered billet-doux hang pinned / in the sheen of black crepe // that encloses her looking-glass / like a wreath of wet seaweed."
The Gamekeeper contains a selection of poetry spanning five collections and over four decades, revealing the full range of one of the finest poets of his generation.
Excerpt from book
The Cupboard Is Bare
We have gone into the poet’s house and found the kitchen bare.
Not a mouse-turd of comma, not one peppercorn full-stop.
He is bankrupt of the wherewithal to hear the penne drop.
Gone the moths that flew like muses when he burned the midnight oil.
Gone the sunlit daily bread of books on the windowsill,
the tongue-loosening whisky of company come for a meal.
Gone the bouillabaisse of gossip. The manly meat of talk.
Not a simile left to dog us, nor any metaphoric cat. All his passion
cobwebbed in the corner. All our pleasure dust on the floor.
Elsewhere midwives tend to their glistening aubergines;
jewellers’ pomegranates gleam in a ruby of grenadine.
Cauliflowers blanch under the neurosurgeons’ care: but here—
not a fork to poke nor a knife to slice nor a cleaver to cut things out.
Not a skewer in the drawer to string them back together.
Not a draught of thought left anywhere
but it’s gone down the kitchen sink.
Gone back to Scotland, to cold rock and bare hill
and pibrochs full and emptier than the grave.
The table’s an empty altar
with its supplicant of chair,
when the cupboard is bare.
Born in Glasgow Scotland and raised in Montreal, Michael Harris has enjoyed a varied career as an author, editor and educator. He has taught English and Creative Writing at McGill, Concordia, and Dawson College, and spent twenty years as poetry editor of the Véhicule Press imprint Signal Editions. He is the author of several well-regarded poetry collections, including Circus (2010), which was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. His works of poetry and prose have been published in leading journals and magazines across North America. Harris’s most recent book is Field Notes: Prose Pieces 1969 - 2012 (2013). He lives in Montreal, Quebec.