John Wall Barger’s work has always been lyrical and inventive. His latest, The Mean Game, builds on these strengths, delivering an evocative and challenging book. Perhaps a little less straightforward than his previous publications, the poems in The Mean Game perform more dramatically, more surreally, and more vividly than ever before.
In his CV2/Winnipeg Review take on John Wall Barger’s The Book of Festus, Michael Prior correctly identifies the book’s “magpie eye” toward epic form. Barger’s debt to the 20th century writers Prior mentions—Olsen, Berryman and Joyce—is not in doubt, although given the city-as-man trope in Festus, Williams’ Paterson should be added to that list. These epics, along with the 19th-century Festus by John Philip Bailey and the history of the city of Halifax, are the memories upon which The Book of Festus draws to produce its colourful, light-hearted, and strange dream.