Fixing Broken Things by Gregory M. Cook

It was freezing; nearly zero! Frigid Vancouver conditions. But sun broke through, the morning warmed with optimism. I finished eating a fry-up at a favourite breakfast spot (strong Wi-Fi, bottomless coffee) and made my way toward the water. The lingering taste on my palette took me back to a similar morning – cold and bright – where I stopped at a roadside diner just outside Aulac, New Brunswick, now the home of poet Gregory Cook. I was going from Halifax to Fredericton, crossing the Maritime provinces as part of a road tour, promoting my first book. I was a tad hungover, as it was morning, and fatty fuel from a nondescript diner was pure OTC medicine. Everything from the fryer tasted of hake. It was exceptional.

In Fixing Broken Things, Cook offers contemplative glances and lingering views on everyday life, as if observed through a window on the weather, landscape, and appearance or disappearance of things that matter.

Now, staring at our left coast, I could be back there, on the starboard side, intermittent water views that leave me feeling we’re all gazing at some version of the same vista – the remarkable wonder of ordinary lives, matters of substance coming and going along the way.

From Cook’s Soft Awakening: The hushed green of meadow moss and epiphytes / on the white shingle beside the back door frame / at the level a weary traveller might lean / on the brace of a hand under the porch light / is all that remains of sleep’s silent dream / where unknown people mix with our friends.

Unknown people mixing with friends – here, there, and points in between. This rattles in my head as I wander home, friendly nods from seeming strangers who are anything but. Back home I move to turn off lights I assume I’d left on. But no, it’s simply low sun, filling our tiny apartment with brilliance. By the window, a well-lit table, and on the table a stack of books new to me – cerebral delicacies. And I read more Cook.

This, from In His Chair: His side table is busy / with poetry by the best, / essays on what poets think / they are doing when they write, / his notebooks for verses / on life spinning outside – / movements of the earth, / a memoir much like a dream, / moments sure as prophecies, / and plea bargains for her love.

I glance over a shoulder, wondering if the author’s in the room, describing what I’m experiencing. The books on the small white table replaced a thousand-piece puzzle we just packed up, the change in season somehow curbing our appetite for dark weather pastimes. And again, it’s as though Cook is there.

From Delicacies of Long Winters: Jigsaw puzzles came to the card table / turning the logic of colour and shape / into cooperative chores of pleasure – / making peace with house ghosts of darker days.

Rarely have I had such a jarring sense of connection with an author I don’t think I know. Now I suspect I’m mistaken, having had a share with a friend I’ve yet to meet in person. I wonder what view he’s enjoying right now.

About the Author: Gregory M. Cook was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. As one of three poets in his immediate family, he has made writers and their survival a personal and a professional study. His biography of his close friend Alden Nowlan, One Heart, One Way, was published by Pottersfield Press. He has lived in Wolfville, Toronto, Fredericton, Saint John, and now Aulac, New Brunswick, where he is writing a biography of novelist Ernest Buckler (1908-1984).

  • Paperback : 160 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1988286867
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1988286860
  • Publisher : Pottersfield Press (July 24 2019)

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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. 

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