Moose Jaw Times-Herald Review - Nineteen Fifty-Seven

Reviewed by: Lisa Goudy

Back in time through poetry

Local author releases new poetry collection

The year 1957 was a good one for Moose Jaw resident Jim McLean.

"I was a very young fellow experiencing a lot of different things back then. I was about 17 years old then," he said. "So it does have a lot of meaning for me.''

He wrote a poem of the same name and he thought that would make a good title for a book of poetry. His poetry collection, Nineteen Fifty-Seven, was recently released from Coteau Books.

"A lot of these poems before 1957, during that general time period and some a number of years afterward," said McLean.

"There are many, many variations of poems in this book. It covers just about everything in my life I guess. So it's difficult to categorize this book. It doesn't have any one particular theme."

The book has six sections - Work, the Dark World, Memories, Women, Writing and Music.

"My editor was pretty good at putting them in some sort of chronology," said McLean. "It turned out quite well that way."

The book examines life in Moose Jaw and the Prairies through poetry.

"I think they all have a personal flavor. I was just reading Ray Bradbury, the science fiction author, and he said, 'There's only one type of story in the world and it's your story,'" said McLean.

"So in that respect, all writing is autobiographical to a certain extent, I think - what happened to you, what you saw happen to someone else, what you heard about at a certain time, what could've happened." 

Nineteen Fifty-Seven isn't McLean's first published poetry collection, as he published another poetry book, The Secret Life of Railroaders, about 30 years ago. All of the poetry in his new collection is new.

"There's nothing from my previous writing. Of course, I've been writing a good many years and a lot of them are a result of that," said McLean. "There's lots that didn't get in the book too."

A lot of his poems in his latest collection stemmed from being part of a local writing group.

"A lot of it came out of that," said McLean.

While he said poetry is "quite a challenge," he added that poetry can speak to people in a unique way. 

"I think you can say a lot if you get it right. You can say a lot in one poem that would take you a lot longer in a short story or an essay or a novel," said McLean.

He said he hopes readers of Nineteen Fifty-Seven will find it relatable.

"That's really what I would like them to do," said McLean. "If I had these experiences, I'm sure that many, any other people had them too."

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