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Light-crossing

by Michael Redhill

Given the busy year he’s had – publishing his first novel, producing a play, editing Brick magazine through an impressive reformatting, and fathering his second son – one might forgive Michael Redhill for being off his game with his fifth volume of poetry, Light-crossing. No such magnanimity is necessary, however. Despite the span of time it took to write the poems – Redhill admits some were composed as early as 1988 – the book is a remarkably unified collection, held together by a strong sense of place and a gradually evolving consciousness that begins with meditations on one-night stands and ends up basking in the exhausting pleasures of fatherhood.
The poems in Light-crossing mostly inhabit Toronto’s urban landscapes, and the consistency of setting provides a stabilizing force to the collection as it spans many times and occasions. Explorations of Toronto’s history sit comfortably alongside love lyrics, which add an erotic charge to the same streets and landmarks. Redhill’s language is easygoing in its lyricism and thoughtful in its portrayal of the silent but momentous changes that come to us all, like the shifting of tectonic plates.
The poetry of life transformation, of growing up and older, is fraught with over-dramatization, and Redhill should be praised foremost for his ability to take on these subjects with restraint and humour. Most impressive are the poems that close the collection, including some remarkably tender yet unsentimental poems about fatherhood. “Offering” begins by referring to an infant’s head as “musketball heavy,” but concludes: “For now,/you are the only word and the mouths/of our bodies spoke it.” Redhill uses a long line for many of these poems, and the form evokes a relaxed, meditative tone that is rich in quiet music.
Readers can only hope that Redhill’s frantic pace will allow him to produce more poetry of such craft and sensitivity.