April 25, 2005

Hardy Friedrich, Way to Inuvik [review]

A lot of Canadian writers have traveled north to find
something, or get away from something, and have come back
with an extra literary (or extraliterary I suppose) awareness
that produces great writing. Maybe it’s that kind of absence
that pulls out language from somewhere other than the same
old always already. Hardy Friedrich found it along the Dempster
in 2004 and at least part of the result is a punchy little chapbook
called Way to Inuvik.
Friedrich is way too cool for his own good. He reads his
poetry with a slick chic groove that suits the playful and under-
stated poems he tends toward. There is very little pretension here,
partly because of the brashness of Friedrich’s youthful (read
‘hormonally induced’) tack. But also there is a lack of overcon-
structedness that is so easy for new writers to get caught up
in. In Friedrich I hear the awareness and fluidity of bissett or
Purdy, the grittiness of Gilbert or McKinnon, the lust of Cohen
or Kroetsch.
Way to Inuvik is a sixtyninebuffalo production—one
of many chapbook presses that are revving to life in Prince
George. It is expertly laid out with luxurious margins and crisp
style. Despite Friedrich’s penchant for poems about aimless
young male angst, the poems in the book are first and foremost
about cultural contact, colonialism, and the narrator’s complicity:

The violent sun of Yukon forest fires
mends the raven hair of a passing girl

know nothing
the edge of her stare
pushes a blade into
my history

The landscape is not so much imagery as a collection of clashing
myths and violations (“violent topography”). There is a careful
narrator here, one that asks hard questions about subjectivity,
history, and race:

copper forever
covers the history
of a crown

Friedrich articulates a deep Caucasian fear: the fear that we
really don’t belong here. And what are we going to do about it?

. . . more like a raven
so big
will slaughter us on our Starbuck
sofas and bars and save-ons
and corporate political or not . . .

In the place of arrogant colonial presence, Friedrich inserts an
insecure and questioning consciousness:

I am alone

Part of being a writer in Prince George is a sense of alienation, a
kind of alienation that allows a kind of easy affinity to those others
who are exiled in this country. Ken Belford, another roving Prince
George poet, has written of his connection to the Carrier First
Nation peoples “I am one of them.” Friedrich offers a similar affinity:

And far from home
that is the sky
where now I
hold my bones
Inuit style
in a pink-lined sunset.

Friedrich’s range is growing and he is yet another new Prince
George poet to watch.


Rob Budde said...

Email Hardy at hst20@hotmail.com for more information or to order a copy.

Tom said...
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