Cold Comes Through by Jim Bennett is the author’s first of five poetry collections. Bennett is a poet from Toronto and graduate of the University of Toronto. This book comes to me as a request from another author. After my initial reaction to the “I have this friend…” email, I checked up on Bennett. His interests cover much ground in many different directions from religion to quantum mechanics and from tropical fish to data processing. It seems we traveled down many of the same paths and both ended up with poetry. I took that as a good sign.
I didn’t read the press release or the book’s description before starting. Sometimes I like to see if the poetry catches with me. The writing here is clear and concise with a message that envelops the reader. There is no hammer that drives the message to the reader it is simply wading into the poetry. From the start “Made to Last” shows the Bennett can create imagery that lasts:
leaving gifts on the shelf of memory gone like kindling
into the stove of time.
The concept of loss and remembrance is perfectly captured in “Aft Cast”, a fishing analogy, that will not have the reader thinking Bass Pro Shop or any fishing cliche. Its message is almost as universal; simple and clear like a parable. The poems also carry the themes of cold, nature, and time. There are many excellent poems in this collection, but one, in particular, stood out for me.
“Facing December” takes the reader through the year as seen by one person of a life-long couple. It opens with the line “How did our lives become December?” It is a powerful and meaningful journey through life. Spring takes a full stanza. Summer takes less and October and November collectively take two lines. All that is left is to make a stand, hand in hand, and face December. The poem also reflects our perception of aging, as we get older, time seems to move faster. The eternity of years of waiting to drive, to buy a drink legally, suddenly seems like a high-speed race to old age.
Not all poems have a serious take on serious matters. For those of us old enough to remember life before Windows, Bennett reminds us of the days of running CHKDSK on our ailing hard drives. Our minds are much like those ailing hard drives. Sectors go bad. Memory is lost. Bennett mentions an old friend who had a stroke and lost “entire file extensions” and cannot remember things that happened after a certain date. It is like no one hit “save.” Backup drives are incompatible with the new but damaged system. There is even a mention of the blue screen sky. It left me thinking if only there was a CHKDSK/f for the human brain.
Loss is something we all face at different times and in different ways. Be it death or the loss of the person we know as a result Alzheimers it often leaves scars on those still living. Scars were pain that has healed and as with most scars they memory is not always a bad one. As time passes we are left wondering what of our life will be remembered. We, however, are pretty much defenseless against aging and its effects. We all experience loss and one day we ourselves will become a loss. Bennett takes us on the journey and reminds us what is most important as we travel through life moving ever closer to our own December.