Reflecting on our Uncertainty | Review of “Omens in the Year of the Ox” by Steven Price (2012) Brick Books

There seems moments in our lives when we question who were are and what we have done. It comes to us late at night or while on vacation or especially when reading. Omens in the Year of the Ox is a collection of poetry by Steven Price that ponders our existence in unique ways.

Page 13 The Crossing (excerpt)

So. At the end of the middle of your life

you wake, rain-shivering, to a white railing

in a shriven dusk. A strangeness churning

under the hull, the great blades boiling through

ferruginous waters. So the ferries sail still

in this late age, vast holds half-full of souls.

And so you rise, each day, more than you were.

Exhausted, maybe, into silence. When Bridges

wrote, How is the world’s bright shift held

in such a cluttered line? Hopkins, in a rage,

had no answer. Or none beyond his poetry.

Rain in silver ropes overrunning his faith,

his metre marking long great gulps of night air.

So the waters gulp at the mournful hull,

so the rusted bolts bleed.

Price’s words here are dark, mysterious and filled with unique references to mythology and classical literature. But there is also something introspective in the lines. Something almost indescribable yet something that we all feel.

Auto-da-Fe (page 34)

Grace is like fire, says Augustine of Hippo, extending the metaphor: burning a man must be done with skill if he is to last. Most die with merely their calves on fire. I remember a dark swale of grass, a girl lifting her shirt. Folding back her cuffs to show her scars. Cigarette burns in small white lesions on her wrists. When burning a man, one must tether faggots and twists of straw up the stake to the head. In this way he will burn in stages and not be overwhelmed. She ran her fingers through her hair and her hair in the dusk was singed by the fire of that setting sun. As a toddler Augustine had played in the courtyard while his mother bathed, the bones glowing in her ankles. Augustine says in the sunlight the hands of our mothers burn like sunlight, like they aren’t there at all. It is never what we think. She rubbed her scars and said, Fire eats and eats in order not to die. I said, We are so alike you and I.

These are complex poems written in different styles. They need to be read again and again, at different times of the day and while suffering from different moods. Price’s words enlightening and thought-provoking.

Three Blues

II. VAGRANCY BLUES –   (Page 65)

Got to lurk,

shine an shirk,

ain’t nothin so sweet as steady work

Got to thank the man.

 

Got sun, sand,

coalblack tan,

an ever man workin just as hard as he can.

Got to thank the man.

Got bed, board,

ten to a ward,

shiny new collar for each of us, lord-

Got to thank the man.

 

Got time, time,

askin no dime,

punchin that dirt on God’s county line

Got to thank the man.

Ever day,

night an day,

watchin the good man give us our pay –

O right proper one a these days

we goin to thank that man,

I say we goin to thank that man.

A complex yet thought-provoking read, Omens in the Year of the Ox by Steven Price is a fantastic collection of poetry. The different styles of verse are interesting but the ideas Price brings forward are certainly enlightening.

*****

Link to Brick Books page for “Omens in the Year of the Ox”

2 thoughts on “Reflecting on our Uncertainty | Review of “Omens in the Year of the Ox” by Steven Price (2012) Brick Books

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