R L Raymond, Half Myths & Quarter Legends, Epic Rites Press, 2012, 72 pages
London, Ontario poet/anti-poet/storyteller R L Raymond has again provided his antithesis to the feel-good, all-will-be-okay syndrome that pervades much of our culture. In Half Myths & Quarter Legends, Raymond’s third release (his previous full-length collection was published in 2011 and a follow-up chapbook appeared in 2012), readers are confronted with the darker spectrum of experience. There’s no candy-coating the events Raymond’s characters live (or die) through: be they loss of faith, poverty, sickness, aging, and the heavy drinking that results in the aftermath – these are the everyday happenings in a world that is stripped of its cursory layers and laid bare in an often-traumatic way.
The relationships herein are generally dysfunctional and the reasons they are such are relayed in Raymond’s cutting, get-to-the-point pieces of dialogue and imagery. Past and present aren’t necessarily linear, and the lines need to be absorbed by an attentive mind in order for these gritty accounts to be appreciated. Meanwhile, the narrative is more akin to a murky vignette than a movie’s telling chapter, like that certain part of a dream (or nightmare) you can recall upon waking, knowing there was more but unable to conjure it completely.
There’s loads of animal appearances as well – and they have a tendency to take some sort of tragic turn. Birds don’t gleefully chirp from sun-bathed branches – they’re more likely to be miserable, finding their once-filled feeders abandoned and empty. Usually, in a Raymond poem, animals and humans don’t get along too well, we’ve clearly encroached on their space (or they in ours), and there’s frequently some kind of consequence as a result, with no absence of carcasses or blood.
That said, despite its gloomy gargoyle cover, Half Myths & Quarter Legends is not a book of horror, nor is it cemented in shrouds of black. It’s more a case of reality refusing to disappear – the avoidance and denial of such gaining no traction with this author, nor are there flowery, superfluous words masking what Raymond won’t allow to stay entombed within our subconscious.
One of my favourites from this collection:
Her meaning of quotidian
floods the library floor
warming the wood slats
then settle back under the furniture.
makes it easy to overlook
the mouse turds
along the baseboard
and the dust along the transoms.
On a side table, a dog-eared classic;
from the kitchen, a waft of French Vanilla.
Eventually the Electrolux kills Faulkner
and streak-free windows stink of ammonia.
Half Myths & Quarter Legends is available from Epic Rites Press, Sherwood Park, Alberta
– Andreas Gripp