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The Rider celebrates mountain poetry

Mountains, horses and the written word come together in Sid Marty’s latest book of poems and songs, all of which are enriched by the author’s customary passion and perception.

Mountains, horses and the written word come together in Sid Marty’s latest book of poems and songs, all of which are enriched by the author’s customary passion and perception.

The Rider with Good Hands, published by Calgary-based Frontenac House, is a slim, 89-page book, but what it lacks in girth, is made up for in depth, as Marty shares work from three previous books of poetry Headwaters (published in 1973), Nobody Danced With Miss Rodeo (1981) and Sky Humour (1999), inspired by “a life lived closed to the earth in the mountains and foothills of British Columbia and Alberta, in the late decades of the last century”.

The book ends with newer work under the heading Buckshee – Songs And Verses, which, as Marty says in his characteristic way, “smacks of an earlier time, since it is written in the rhyming tradition that never went out of style on the western ranges”.

It’s easy to assume Marty is referring to an editor he had lunch with, an experience he shares in Ballad of the Onion (to an editor) who tells him that his rhyming work is now passé and instead, she only publishes postmodern poetry.

And that is one of the best parts of Marty’s writing, the former national park warden doesn’t mince his words and he doesn’t hold back for fear of rocking the boat or offending someone or an organization when the cause is there.

However, perhaps the most enjoyable part of Marty’s work is how he writes about the people, wildlife and landscape that he cares about with reverence, kindness and limitless charity and how that, along with his simple-is-better approach, allows readers to enter his poetry without becoming bogged down in poetic conventions that can frustrate non-poets.

As a result, his poetry is as descriptive and as poignant as his non-fiction books, such as Leaning on the Wind: Under the Spell of the Great Chinook that prove his greatest strength as a writer is his power of observation and his ability to say what many of us feel in a way that allows us to be there with him.

Take for example, At The Breaking of Drought.Any reader who has experienced a drought is right there with him when he writes:

Steam rises from the mud

The wind has banked two months of heat

Into this cracked clay

After late night rain even the shadow of a crow

smells fresh

Through his poetry readers can enter the world of a father, a rancher or a backcountry warden, a quiet world of secluded mountain valleys and humble cabins where horses are often the only company, aside from the wildlife and the weather.

And it’s for all those reasons – his approach, word choice, simplicity and style – that Marty’s poetry is highly readable and wonderfully accessible.

Marty will be in Canmore during the ninth annual Canmore artsPeak Arts Festival reading from The Rider with Good Hands as part of the artWords Literary Saloon at the Canmore Miners’ Union Hall Sunday, June 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at Second Story Books (713 Main St.) and Harvest Moon Acoustics (102A, 722 Main St.).

The Literary Saloon also features playwright, actor and poet Chris Masson; Laurie Fuhr, managing editor of Filling Station, a literary and arts magazine; and Governor General’s award-winner Robert Kroetsch.

The Rider with Good Hands, which retails for $15.95, will be available at the artWords table at artFair, which will be held at the Civic Centre Plaza Saturday and Sunday, June 18-19.


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