Him

Description

64 pages
$16.95
ISBN 0-88753-322-1
DDC C811'.54

Publisher

Year

1999

Contributor

Reviewed by Beryl Baigent

Beryl Baigent is a poet; her published collections include Absorbing the
Dark, Hiraeth: In Search of Celtic Origins, Triptych: Virgins, Victims,
Votives, and Mystic Animals.

Review

Bulmer’s fourth book is a slim volume of prose poetry divided into
three subsections: “Him,” “Wishbone,” and “Beauty.” Bulmer
is a student of theology, and her strong interest in religion, from both
a Christian and a pagan perspective, is evident in her work.

In the first section, Bulmer explores archetypes of mother and feminine
wisdom through short prose poems. The protagonist, Ramona, a First
Nations woman, carries her unborn baby without benefit of “signs or
wonders.” Yet, the baby “trembled in [her] like a new dove in a cage
of frail bone.” Her “Baby” is born “in Pisces,” part fish and
part human: “His wrists were scarred where the gills healed.” He was
unwell from birth, and in her archetypal role as both Mary and Mary
Magdalene, she “anointed each pocked and bleeding place.”

Bulmer fleshes out her prose with a woman’s detail. The meal at the
baby’s wake consists of “bitty potatoes browned on all sides, snap
beans seasoned with lemon and lime, corn breads and jellies, sweet
candied yams.” The douche her Auntie Lavinia prepares is of
“wormwood, chamomile, and moss.” In “The Burial,” the
particulars include “molasses [set] at the head of the grave and a
pone of bread at the foot.” Despite the almost fundamental references
to Jesus and his parables, Ramona prefers the old ways as she “sinks
[her] prayer into a big old tree like Aunt Lavinia taught [her].”

Bulmer’s images are unforgettable as her characters in “Wishbone”
address violence, incest, and loss of faith in the “Saviour [and his]
big white hands.” The baby is again a crucial image and s/he is
described as “fine as a wishbone.” A lovers’ triangle dominates
this section as Cass, Cyril, and Charlene the dance teacher rumba
through their lives. “Beauty” is the young women in a collection of
three short stories set in Montreal and Paris. These personal narratives
might be tales that a girl friend tells you on a girls’ night out.
Once again, it is the detail that feeds the soul. From “Open thou mine
eyes,” we read: “She took pictures of a Rasta man drumming in the
square, of a greasy-looking fortune teller turning tarot at a card
table.” In the final story, “All thy hairs are counted,” the
protagonist with her shaved head dances naked to African drums and
imagines herself as “a wild, resilient plant.”

If you want stark reality couched in simple and natural language,
Bulmer’s work will make your toes curl and the hairs on the back of
your neck take notice.

Tags

Citation

Bulmer, April., “Him,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8434.