Joe Denham is the author of two poetry collections, Flux (2003) and Windstorm (2009), and one novel, The Year of Broken Glass (2011). His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies including Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets, The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry and Breathing Fire 2: Canada's New Poets. He lives with his wife and two children in Halfmoon Bay, BC, and works as a commercial fisherman throughout coastal British Columbia.
Flux is everything a significant debut should be--the arrival of a fresh, confident voice with an extraordinary range of form, direction and style.
From a sequence that captures the art and vocabulary of commercial fishing with careful precision, Denham bursts into a free-flowing and varied narrative based on the angst-ridden and picaresque life of …
I etch ephemeral sketches in flat, black water,
swirling the pike pole like a sparkler wand,
the steel spear tip igniting fairy-dust krill
as we drift in to haul up our catch.
An industrial gramophone, the hauler
churns a music of creak and moan
over the rumbling whine of diesel
and hydraulics, the echo of our exhaustion.
We sit astride the gunwale, hunched
and awing at the swooping arc of green
the line bends below the surface,
tugging the boat over the set -
till traps stream like marine comets
emerging from the depths in a burst of glow
and morphing back to bare utility
whatever beauty we've begun to imagine.
Black mesh torn by the rock shelf's clinging
resistance, its gnarled-tooth gnawing, this trap's
become a sieve all but octopus, Dungeness
and dogfish slip through. Between
strings I take the mending needle
spooled with green twine, stitch
the gaps the way my skipper sealed
the gash in his own palm
when a hook embedded in the line
hauled through his hand and ripped it open.
Everything out here is sharp-edged,
broken. Half our time working with holes
we've no time to mend. I take
each spare moment to tie frayed ends:
reef for tension, knot the twine,
and cinch down tight.
It was December. I'd never seen a sub-zero winter.
I must have been struck by the absence of green,
spindly trees thrusting branches of nothing
up towards thin overcast: a mirror
image of the snowed plain, trackless, without frame.
I can't say why it was I left the contour
of my huddled family watching father
lift a frozen coyote from steel jaws
and wandered into that veiled expanse -
Nor do I recall the crack as frail ice splintered beneath my feet,
or the gust of awareness that rises when life turns
just the plow of my quickened legs through the snow, crust
rasping against my knees,
and the chorus of cleft voices rising to the fore
calling me back to the familiar shore.
Joe Denham's debut novel The Year of Broken Glass follows struggling crab fisherman Francis "Ferris" Wichbaun's journey across the Pacific Ocean to deliver a legendary glass fishing float to an enigmatic, high-paying collector. Against a backdrop of worldwide seismic devastation, Ferris is forced to confront increasing concern for his two families- …
Windstorm is a passport to the place where chaos and form meet; Denham's timeless ethereal gaze is rooted in the mastery of poetic forms such as the sonnet and Dante's terza rima. These quiet, forceful poems explore heaven, earth and sea with arresting images, ideas and words. Like the wind, Denham's poetry has the power to move.
in the windsong. T …