M. C. Warrior’s Disappearing Minglewood Blues documents his life working on the BC coast, as a logger, a fisherman (herring gillnet and salmon seine), and as a union activist. The poems are organized thematically and by work history; section titles signal each theme, such as “Bushed,” “At Sea,” and a section with union poems entitled “Revolutions are Festivals of the Repressed.” As a whole, this collection gives you the sense of a man with a notebook and a pencil in his pocket, recording field notes over the course of a working life, scribbling down impressions after a long day’s work, or during a break or shut down. He captures beautifully the rhythm and seasons of a working man, as well as the dark watchful atmosphere of the coastal rainforest.
In “quitting time” we learn of the daily round, the constant waiting: “as i climb over the cold-deck pile i think / how after lunch i’ll be waiting / out the four hours / till quitting time, / at quitting time waiting for sunday, / on sunday, for fire season or a strike, / after fire season, for the winter layoff.” The repetition of the phrasing is simple but effective, and introduces the particularities of seasonal logging work, with its fire seasons and winter layoffs. Yet this monotony can also be punctuated by sheer terror. In “seven long” Warrior recalls a near-miss by a siwash (an obstacle that can create a dangerous rebound by a wire) that gives him a flashback to a less fortunate logger in his past: “heap of yellow raingear / splayed against torn earth / and rotting snow, lying / beside his tailhold where the siwash / had sliced through blood-red alders / and jumped a creek / to catch him.” The near-fatal accident is neatly echoed in the siwash slicing through “blood-red alders,” which stand in for the flesh of the man; logging gear is personified, dangerous—jumping a creek “to catch him.” The title refers to the alarm of seven long whistles meant to alert the crew that someone has been seriously injured or killed.
One of the pleasures of this book comes in encountering the technical vocabulary of Warrior’s work as logger and fisherman—siwash, hooktender, grapple—terms which are glossed as needed, but are woven naturally into each poem: “all night I break up jackpots and manoeuvre / in caulk boots along 6″ steel I-beams / in order to buck logs trapped in the side-lift” (“these double shifts”). The other pleasure comes from reading a poetic diary of the BC past, from the perspective of a worker. Warrior’s precise, spare lines offer evocative snapshots of the 70s and 80s, and of the coast’s dark, slumbering power, contrasted with the thin veneer of western industrial civilization. This contrast is captured succinctly in “northumberland channel: 04:30 hrs, December 14,” where we are offered a single image: amidst the smell of “diesel tinged with brine” a tugboat is observed out in the channel, “like a horizontal christmas tree / -green and red and ice white’ // gliding deliberately across the frigid black water.”