Footsteps in the Garden, published by Cyberwit, is the latest collection of poetry from Canadian poet Bob MacKenzie. While a number of the poems included in this anthology of MacKenzie’s work have seen the light of day in other publications, this marks the first time many of them have appeared under the same cover.
MacKenzie’s work is characterized by his use of words to create atmosphere and emotion. Instead of simply spelling a feeling out, or manipulating his readers, he gradually builds something that will generate a real reaction. You read his poetry and react on almost an instinctual level to what’s presented on the page.
Take for example the poem “the edge”. A poem about vanishing into the boundaries between society’s various polarities. “I’ve been standing in the cold falling rain/hearing the pulse of its heart beat down/seeing the dark images in its shadows/like the visions of ancient prophets/and I have seen I stand in the gutter/between the edges between worlds apart’.
MacKenzie deftly introduces us to this no-man’s land in our society. A seemingly desolate place, with its cold rains, but underneath a heart is beating indicating life. It might be a precarious to be, on the edge, but life exists there and everywhere. We just have to be aware enough to look for it.
Being able to impart this type of message to us indirectly is what elevates MacKenzie’s work above the mundane. He doesn’t beat us over the head or metaphorically jump up and down waving his hands to make his point.
His use of words, their sometime multiple meanings, and how those meanings change with context and arrangement, creates a kind of syntax that is unique to his poetry. We hear the inner thoughts of his poems without even being told to listen.
While this gives the impression of his poetry an all in, intense experience, that’s not necessarily the case. Some, like “this love”, are more delicate. “Sometimes,/you just don’t fall in love/like some fortunate accident./you turn your head slightly/see love at your side/as though its been there/ all along each day of your life/perhaps much longer than that”.
The poem continues to describe the type of love most of us don’t realize we secretly crave. Not the wild passionate romance described in cheap books and bad movies, but the enduring kind that has weathered the storms of time and trouble. “this love and you are/just two become one/for all time past and future/and for the present especially”.
Of course two poems don’t do justice to the range and scope of work you’ll find within this collection. MacKenzie’s work is a diverse as the world is strange and wonderful and Footsteps in the Garden will bring you into its living beating heart.