Focusing on intensely personal experiences, Optics shows vision as a trick of light. We see through a glass barrier we’ve placed between ourselves and our world, often filtered by the warps and swirls caught in that glass. We stand behind a window that is growing dark in early winter, not even noticing the creeping darkness across the glass blocking our vision. The poems explore the world reflected back by a simple piece of glass.
Short-listed for the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize
Optics is a moving, personal account of life as we reflect upon what it means to experience change and confront loss. Stallworthy’s commentary on caregiving for a parent afflicted with Alzheimer’s, and excellent use of metaphor, offers many poignant moments. He expertly captures the sense of drift we feel when confronted with situations beyond our control. Bob Stallworthy’s gift is to transfer his acute observations to the page using metaphors that make a quick and indelible imprint upon the reader’s eye.
The effect of Optics is cumulative, even symphonic, with the strongest voice assigned to sight. Reflecting in kaleidoscopic angles Stallworthy’s unassuming, thoughtful poetic vision succeeds particularly in recording, examining and displaying filial affection and disaffection. We are gradually drawn into the gaze of the poems and into the shifting meanings and images that refocus through the book into a satisfying whole.
This is Stallworthy’s work at its best, an example of mixing the ordinary with an attempt at something reminiscent of magic realism.
Optics is an excellent collection, choc-a-bloc full of epiphanies and poignant moments of acute observation, and Mr. Stallworthy has developed a lean, muscular line, tighter narrative focus, and killer sense of closure in these poems.
The epigrammatic quality of this poetry loses nothing in its translation from imagination to images fashioned on the page.
These poems explore the seemingly inexhaustible metaphoric potential of those every-day frames that capture perceptions: storm windows, blinds, rear-view mirrors. Stallworthy’s careful glance often finds that elusive membrane between people where the form of a relationship condenses and becomes visible.
The poems of Optics are about how a man can envy the sun as it escapes the frame of the window it darkens as it goes. They are about keeping your eye on the window until it shows how you look without mercy. This is a book by a saddened lover of the world. It is about Bob Stallworthy as son, stepson, care-giver, forgotten son, yes. And it is the work of Bob Stallworthy the artist polishing his poems a pane at a time until the best shine black as glass.
About the Author
Bob Stallworthy is a transplanted Maritimer who has lived in Calgary for 25 years. He has written four full-length books of poetry, including this one) and an ongoing e-book called In Silhouettecontaining the profiles of Alberta authors. He has also written book reviews for The Calgary Herald as well as a regular column for WestWord (the Writers Guild of Alberta magazine), and has written and published poetry in literary magazines across Canada. His book Optics was shortlisted for the 2004 W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize. Stallworthy, who was awarded the Calgary Freedom of Expression Award in 2002, is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of Alberta, a member of the League of Canadian Poets and a member of the Young Alberta Book Society.
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