Tamarack and Clearcut


96 pages
ISBN 0-88629-293-X
DDC C813'.54




Photos by Rudi Haas
Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is an associate professor of English at Laurentian
University and the editor of Arachne.


This book is masterful in three ways: in each of the writings, in each
of the photographs, and in their convergence. The title’s image
catches the aesthetic shared by the poet/photographer. The tamarack
stands for the persistence of life as well as change, the “clearcut”
for a generalized destructive finality. Then again, the tamarack is
emphatically seasonal, yellowing and greening its needles to the rhythm
of the solar year; the clearcut is part of a much larger
span—centuries, even millennia. The breathtaking sense of our living
against the backdrop of eternity, which charges this image, is the theme
that emerges from the poems and photographs and their combination.

Bluger’s haiku are fine instances of this austere poetic form. In a
few words she creates a mood, shares an insight, or conveys an emotion.
To give a sense of the variety, here are three examples: “stopped cold
in housewares / ambushed / by emptiness”; “emerging / from melting
snow lumber / stacked by the recession”; “wind bunts / the marigolds
/ bunt back.”

The photographs, all taken in Ottawa, are a wonder and joy to behold.
Carleton University Press did an excellent job of printing them. Rudi
Haas shows a painterly love of color and pattern, revealed through urban
and natural subjects, often in combination. He (seemingly) effortlessly
creates the sort of Zen awareness that Bluger creates with words.

Tamarack and Clearcut is organized into four seasonal sections:
Leafsmoke, Winter Dusk, Loam, and Early Evening Pieces. The book lays
out the haiku one after the other; that is, they are not set in
one-to-one relations with the photographs. The effect is thus not an
accumulation of discrete reading experiences, but book-sized. And that
is an immense achievement, especially when the effect is a thrill.



Bluger, Marianne., “Tamarack and Clearcut,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/2952.