Kevin Irie: The Tantramar Re-Vision

John James Audubon, Whooping Crane (Sandhill Crane), 1835. Image from Museum of Nebraska Art

                    the marsh grass,
                   stirs up some business

          I don't know about.                                                         

This exciting news about sandhill cranes taking up residence in the salt marshes between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick sends me back today to Kevin Irie's luminous book of poems, The Tantramar Re-vision (McGill-Queen's, 2021).

In these poems, instances of the extraordinary sometimes leap, sometimes slide into a landscape of shifting moods. 

          Something moves downstream
               past thinking of us:

Encounters are as likely to be with conundrums and meditative correspondences as with things.

          How did it end as
          a small dark brush
          sweeping the earth

          up into a stillness
          like an answer
          giving silence a turn?

          The quiet that covers
          a crow's severed wing

          like a tarp laid over a bier.

Language is precise and expansive, as though it is itself watching and walking through the marshes. John Thompson's Stilt Jack runs beneath the poems as an aquifer of poetic energy. 

          Haven't I moved though life
               like heat through dry grass,

          unseen but everywhere

Basho visits, 

          Even Basho couldn't escape from fleas and lice
          when he lay down in the dark.

          Centuries later, they're still on the page.
          A flow of ink kept them alive.

and weather,

          The compulsion of snow
          to keep on rising.

          To descend as
          tiny ripped parachutes

and ecologies of the self in the world:

               Twigs crack like ice breaking

          beneath your boots when you've stepped
               too far away from yourself

Like the cranes in the Tantramar Marshes, Kevin Irie's poems give me the sense I'm encountering a mysterious elsewhere, a mystery entirely at home.

(Excerpts from "Windblown", "A Creek as Complicity, Duplicity, Daring",  "Defeated [A Confession]", "Studies in Contrast", "The Compulsion of Snow",  and "October's Meadow",  from The Tantramar Re-Vision, McGill-Queens Press, 2021)