Chief Jay Strongbow is Real
by Timothy Gager
Big Table Publishing (July 18, 2017)
$14 paperback (Amazon)
Timothy Gager is a fantastic poet. I’d like to say this up front. And I say that for everyone. To my mind, and I could be off base in mentioning this, but I seem to think he may go unnoticed too often for his poetry. Reading his most recent collection, Chief Jay Strongbow is Real, I’ve become convinced he could be one of our most natural poets. His poems have this feel to them, as if they appeared to him in visions. In truth, I realize this only means he worked on them extraordinarily hard. But still, not everyone can bring across this natural feel in their work.
Take this from Act I, the first of eight sections of poems from the collection, a piece titled “Repatriation”:
It’s still happening, now, as
science, debunked their tall tale
that I wasn’t really a native American,
not a cultural item of lineal descendants
see what they dug up, check the DNA
which shows, I still long to be in the ground.
Timothy spends a good deal of time at the beginning of this collection dealing with justice and injustice, especially in regard to the native American. In his preface, he explains that his perspective on the treatment of the native American was changed following a failed grade school assignment. He spends time on the subject in the title poem, as well, Chief Jay Strongbow, a former pro wrestler who used a racist gimmick, a popular show technique for those guys in the 1980s. But he doesn’t stay on the subject, instead moving on to topics ranging from the complexities of love to the hardships of addiction.
In the poem “Sobriety” with stripped down language and minimal space, Gager absolutely sums up one of many aspects of what staying clean is like, the hourly grind of it and how beautiful recovery can be when managed successfully. The poem begins with a familiar image, the addict or alcoholic in recovery with coffee. In this instance, sitting alone in thought, viewing oil paintings.
view the oil paintings
hung boats and fields
thousands of brush strokes
But more than what he can do with a ripe subject matter, and returning to this natural rhythm his style develops on the tongue, it is his use of syntax that can astound in this collection. Of the many poems on display, none show this more clearly for me than “Nursery Rhythms.” Have a look at the final stanza and consider while reading how Timothy must have labored over each syllable working in perfect concert with the other.
off my crooked clavicle
sapiens discern vertebrae
missiled. And shatterproof
glass in pitched little houses
is how we wind up a catapult.
Big Table Publishing just released this title. I suggest you get to Amazon and get a copy as soon as possible. BTP will have it available at their site soon, I’m sure. In the meantime, know that Timothy is writing poetry that is not only pleasing on a poetic level but is also important on a social level, aware of long-standing debts and the newly-wronged alike and poetry that offers wisdom shared beautifully, not something found easily or often. And he shares this asking nothing in return but your attention.