Reviews - What do customers think about The Middleman (Salmon Poetry)?
The Middleman Aug 6, 2008
The poems in The Middleman refuse to take sides, or rather, they insist on taking all sides. Writing from the United States with a Canadian background and Irish ancestry, Cavanagh straddles a number of borders. With deft language and a compassionate voice, his poems explore complex territories of love, family, work, and nationality through the lens of personal history. They seek lost connections from a Montreal childhood, a funeral procession in Cork, or a walk with a lover among wildflowers in Vermont. Always there is yearning for meaning. And usually it's the subtle, middle ground between extremes that seems most fertile.
These poems suggest that in the search for sensuous understanding lies a saving beauty and vitality. Baffled by contradictions, the middleman of the title poem finds himself ...
...right where I have to be...high on my own thin wire, gamely stringing myself
along, half wanting to look down, half blinded by midday glare, stretching for who knows where.
Born and raised in Montreal, David Cavanagh has also lived in Ontario and now in Vermont, where he works as an associate dean at Johnson State College. His poems have appeared in journals, chapbooks, and anthologies in the U.S., Canada, and Ireland. The Middleman is his first full-length collection.
The Middleman Jun 18, 2004
Middle age, middle man....after the beginning, before the end; who is the hero of this age? David Cavanagh in his slim book of poems entitled The Middleman, tries to be this hero however middling he may be. The cover suggests it's a balancing act with a picture of Karl Wallenda, a tightrope walker setting the stage. To do anything other than walk and balance on this line is dangerous, as he reminds us in the title poem.
I feel tucked inside a dead-end safety zone, middle of a middling life, pleasant home, decent
income, fenced backyard, a long good love. The next I'm strung out on the thinnest
of taut high wires, the balancing act of a lifetime, the crowd hushed below. Without ever
making a stir, I've stepped right off the platform- a mid-life Flying Wallenda, cat-walking high
above ground. Look down beyond the tip of slipper or think too hard of one side or the other
and I'm gone. Dead meat. Splayed on the seething dump of career, TV, pumped-up media sex,......
The first poem in the book, Call it, suggests, "call it your life". So that is our theme; the middle aged man's life. With a little gratitude our hero might notice the contrast between where he stands and where he might fall. Or he might just be board with existence. From poem to poem Cavanagh singles out and holds up moments and episodes from his life, each like a step on the tight rope defining and accepting that life, as is. The language is clear and flowing, frank and dramatic. Cavanagh's world is one of everyday people, and experiences that speak up to pose questions, make situations, and push or steer the Middleman, as in:
Rings Life is not perfect like a gold ring, she says. Something is off, she says. It's not just do things all day, go home, kissy-poo at night and that's it, she says. Yearning, she says. I have to go but toothpaste, she says. Call me, I say. She says, Call me.
Which brings us to an interesting question: is the mid-life crisis a genre of male storytelling? Cavanagh seems to have established that men become dissatisfied when they reach the apex of their accomplishments. Likewise they make false assumptions about what they think they will accomplish before death, and don't know what to do with the rest of their lives. Cavanagh works this fatalistic genre honestly, perhaps even recognizing the blinders he has donned:
The Ocean I would move in .......I warn you I am not used to your underwater world I am a surface creature
metallic in the sun....
The poet sees in the world his otherness, looking at it as a potential mate. In this case a male or female poet will see the world categorically different from each other, and Cavanagh's journey is intensely personal. Each step Cavanagh takes on his tightrope offers the firmness of retracing memories of his father in Montreal, his Irish background, a time he spent in Ontario, his lover in Vermont, his job as associate dean at Johnson State College. It is an educational walk. Witnessing Cavandagh's "mid-life thing", invites us to weigh and choose meanings, as he does. Like an hour glass he plays with, Cavanagh turns his life over and back. Even obvious questions become fodder for reflection. Does poetry comes from how man looks at a woman, or vice versa? As Cavanagh puts it in As If
"Which end of the camera are you at this evening?"
Middle age, middle man....after the beginning, before the end; who is the hero of this age?