Collected Poems by Raymond Fraser

Until this winter, I was one of the Miramichi-dwellers on the TMR team. I moved out of Miramichi in December, and have missed it since — but especially at this time of year, when the river and the community is waking up to its beautiful spring self. In a particular bout of homesickness for Miramichi recently, I turned to poet Raymond Fraser’s Collected Poems, an omnibus of his poetry. Fraser was born in Chatham, New Brunswick in 1941, and died in Fredericton in 2018. I lived in the former town of Chatham for the eight years I was on the Miramichi, and Fraser spent much of his adult life away from the Miramichi, but often still wrote about it. Our versions of Chatham are slightly different, and only barely overlap, but I thought that if anyone understood how I was feeling these days, a Chatham-born poet would be the one.

And indeed, Fraser got me with a number of poems. He writes of many places and times, but there were a number he wrote about his hometown, both remembering and visiting it. In particular, “St. Michael’s Basilica” gave me what I wanted:

The bells of St. Michael’s
ring out a noontime
as high on Cunard Street
the cross-headed sphinx
shades the valley
and roars long and proud.

(Chatham, 1962)

Fraser’s poems are rough around the edge, never shying from the griminess of life. His work put me in mind of much of the work done out of Montreal in the 1960s and 1970s – only for me to verify that I was right, he was in Montreal then, writing and working with the greats. Moving between the urban and rural, the two major landscapes of Fraser’s life, these poems are evocative and accessible. I followed Fraser around Montreal, back home to Chatham, in taverns for a pint or two, through arguments and also tender moments. The language is simple, but the cadence is often musical and soothing.

This is a beautiful introduction to Fraser’s work, this collection that he put together shortly before he died. What a wonderful thing to be able to do as an author, and a wonderful thing to enjoy as a reader. Fraser’s poems were here for me when I needed it, and if you’re curious about a few slices of the Miramichi, this is also a good place to start.

Fraser’s poems were here for me when I needed it, and if you’re curious about a few slices of the Miramichi, this is also a good place to start.

Raymond Fraser was born May 8, 1941, in Chatham, New Brunswick. He was the author of thirteen books of fiction, three of non-fiction, and eight collections of poetry. He died in Fredericton in 2018.

Publisher: Friesen Press (March 20,2024)
Paperback 5″ x 8″ | 360 pages
ISBN: 978-1-03-919643-8

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Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.

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