The following review of Lindsay Bird’s Boom Time (2019, Gaspereau Press) is by Newfoundland author Tom Halford, whose book Deli Meat was shortlisted by The Miramichi Reader for Best First Book in 2019.
There is a consistent good-natured irony and humour running through Lindsay Bird’s Boom Time. In “Newfoundland”, Bird develops a rhythm that compliments her tongue-in-cheek content. She writes,
Never been, but know
most of its men.
Kissed a few. A cod too,
it’s frozen cheek
flown in for a one
night rendezvous. (52)
Bird is describing the famous “Kiss the Cod” tradition that Newfoundlanders perform for tourists to the island. A CFA (Come From Away) is encouraged to kiss a cod and then take a shot of screech. There is a sense of fun and of lightness to this poem that is reflected in the form and style, but there is also an undercurrent of irony that makes the poem all the more enjoyable:
back to their icy
I’m told it’s a better
barren view. (52)
The speaker jokingly implies that the Newfoundlanders in the poem are idealizing their home province, but those who live in Newfoundland know (as Bird knows) that the barrenness is beautiful. Tony Fabijančić has pointed out in “Island Memories: Newfoundland, Maui”, that Newfoundland’s massive, weather-beaten landscape exudes the sublime. In fact, Newfoundland does have the best barren view.
One of Bird’s greatest strengths in Boom Time is her ability to quickly create strong images. The poem that stands out most is “Other Women”. In seven terse lines, Bird expresses the silence imposed on women in traditionally male-dominated environments. Here is the end of the poem:
We don’t know
each other’s names,
faces dim like
frosted glass. (34)
This image of facelessness is superimposed over the rest of the collection. The women in Boom Time try not to stand out because that could mean bringing unwanted attention. Instead, they try to remain anonymous, hidden from the eyes of the men in the camp.
There are lighter moments in Boom Time that succinctly capture the time and place that Bird writes about. In “Yarn”, the speaker sits with a man named Jim who teaches her how to knit. She writes,
Burning through Lost
Season Two, the DVD
set that orbited
camp so long
it became folklore. (18)
These details do more than add a touch of humour to Boom Time; they remind me of how quickly time passes and how abruptly technology changes. I can remember clunky DVDs that scratched too easily, and I was one of those Lost fans who spent too much time speculating on what would happen next in the series. These carefully chosen details transport us not only to the work camps of northern Alberta but also to the time before Canada’s oil economy went bust.
Boom Time is funny, quirky, and profound. I’m a big fan of this book.
Boom Time by Lindsay Bird
*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3cXb8bH Thanks!