Book Review: The Ridge

The Ridge book sitting in a a garden.“Time,” says Jorge Luis Borges, “is the substance I am made of. Time is a river that carries me away, but I am the river.”

So it is, in the living breathing collection, The Ridge, Bringhurst is coming home. And I with him.

Robert Bringhurst, winner of Governor General’s Award for literature and a Guggenheim Fellow, is a poet, essayist, linguist, and typographer and one of the most respected writers in Canada today. His latest book, The Ridge, is a poetic amalgamation of his entire life’s work. Both in its beauty and its grieving.

The ridge is Harriet Ridge on Quadra Island. There was a great fire on Quadra Island in 1925 that destroyed many trees. It is a loss that Bringhurst still mourns.

These poems are of the earth – touching the vastness of language, music, geology, and nature.

The mind
of the Ridge is as large as the ridge,
in the mind of the world as large and as
varied and far as the world.

The book is also an homage to the poets and writers, composers, and artists Bringhurst admires – including Robert Frost, Stan Dragland, Barry Lopez, Gary Snyder, P.K. Page, Joseph Hayden. And his wife, poet Jan Zwicky.

It is a treatise on who we are as humans. On the magnificent earth. On the human animal. Of which we are one among many. And we are passing through.

I lived with the woman I loved in the house
that we built on the flank of the Ridge
At the end of the road at the start of the trail.
It’s taken us our lives
to get this clear. You know
it’s what our lives are for.

Italian writer, Italo Calvino, in his book The Written World and the Unwritten World, hypothesized that we write to learn what we don’t know. It is not the desire so much to teach others that makes us want to write but rather to capture a trace of the knowledge or wisdom that each of us touched in this life and might immediately lose.

I felt all of this in The Ridge. Bringhurst telling his story, his truth, weaving together a life’s work, and then the simple truth of what touches a person. There is both solitude and companionship here. He has written what he knows and what he does not know, tapping the universe of our understanding.

This is a book written from the heart. I loved this book for its unpretentious unity. For the gift he has given us.

Bringhurst reads Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. during The Ridge With Robert Bringhurst: A Conversation on Environmental Poetry. MacDonald also moderates the poetry panel, Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World, on Oct. 14. Tickets are on sale now

The Ridge is reviewed by Mary MacDonald. She has written poetry for ballet, public art, and libretto. Her work has appeared in Room Magazine and Pique Newsmagazine. Her chapbook, Going In Now, was published in 2014 by NIB Publishing and her short story collection, The Crooked Thing was released in fall 2020 by Caitlin Press. She is a member of the Whistler writers’ group The Vicious Circle and serves as curator and moderator for the poetry division of the Whistler Writers Festival.