critical reception: reviews

Excerpts from reviews of P.W. Bridgman’s selection of poetry entitled A Lamb (Ekstasis Editions, 2018):

“…’P.W. Bridgman’” (a nom de plume) has excelled in a long legal career under his own name, while building a literary reputation, pseudonymously, as a writer of both short fiction and poetry. The recent collection and publication of a volume of his poems by Ekstasis Editions under the title of A Lamb presents the legal profession with poetry written from its own perspective… Bridgman’s stylistic values are the Purdyesque properties of exactness, faithfulness to the subject matter, and clarity: appropriate, necessary virtues when a Vancouver lawyer is telling stories of people very different from himself, such as the working class of Northern Ireland… His interest in people different from himself, his scrupulous accuracy in setting out their actions, words, and fates, is the quality that dominates this book. That is a quality worth celebrating…  Bridgman is a poet who not only understands ordinary people and sympathizes with them, but also sees the ordinariness and humanity of those whose misfortunes and mistakes have made them criminals. To gain some of the benefit of Bridgman’s long experience of human nature by reading A Lamb is an opportunity not to be missed.” (To read the entire review, click here and turn to pages 283-286.)

Reviewed by Daniel Cowper
in the Advocate
(March, 2020)

“This is a dark book, a parade of lost souls. And yet. It is a parade watched over, created, shepherded by a poet with a big and growing heart, each lost soul seen, accepted with compassion, not judged, not condemned… At times Bridgman sits in a corner of a dark pub, hospital room or smoke-filled kitchen observing, listening, reporting in the cadence of the story and place. And the many places where the tales occur adds to their universality. We may have no experience of the vernacular of Northern Ireland but we understand it when we meet it. We feel the authentic voice of the characters as they struggle with the life they have been given… A wonderful, essential book that sings to our sorrows, cloaks our mysteries, celebrates the fierceness of our young love and the joy of appreciative love that survives and grows later in life.” (To read the entire review, click here and turn to pages 32-33.)

Reviewed by John Swanson
in The Pacific Rim Review of Books
(Spring, 2020)

“[T]his poet emerges in transition from long experience as a prose writer, combining his knowledge of poetry with subtle, understated humour and the imaginative capacity to combine what Yeats described as “antimonies”, those apparent paradoxes of existence life offers us… When a first collection appears from such an accomplished writer with a long publication record to his credit, it’s wrong to speak of “promise”: and yet one can’t help but look forward to what’s next from a writer as familiar as Bridgman with diversity in the truest sense: wide ranging in his subjects, catholic in his tastes, and with a sharp eye for the witty aside that makes one think of a darker, funnier version of the American master Billy Collins.” (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by James Wood
in The High Window
(Winter, 2019)

“To read this poet’s alchemical poems is to hear them, as one hears live, improvisational theater; so imbued are they with scene, character, accent, and idiom…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Jami Macarty,
of The Maynard
(Twitter Short Form Shout-Out, July, 2019)

A Lamb not only welcomes us into the author’s realm, but props open the door to his secret citadel. Bridgman’s musicality and romance language fluency come through in meter, tempo and an umami-esque richness in each lyrical line. His narrative style can seamlessly deliver razor wit… From the outset, lamb triggers a mosaic of metaphor – frailty, play, sacrifice, and slaughter…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Bill Arnott,
in Canadian Poetry Review
(Spring, 2019)

“I first encountered P.W. Bridgman (a pen name) when he reviewed a collection of Ethel Wilson’s letters for the Globe and Mail. Ethel Wilson would certainly have delighted in A Lamb, his newly published book of poetry. Herein are contained all the qualities that she valued in good writing — the visual thrill of language, the interplay of many voices (especially including those from the working class), and an ironic authorial perspective that renders the simple as something complex. She would have laughed at titles like “Carrying On After the Carrying On,” “Grace and Disgrace,” and “Mr. Low-Hanging Fruit Makes His Will.” She would have been especially delighted I’m sure to find Christopher Smart on the opening page serving as something like a master of ceremonies… In my view this is a remarkable collection of contemporary poetry that encompasses the now and the before. I am confident indeed that Ethel Wilson would have delighted in this book not only for its linguistic bravura but for its naming of Vancouver — its streets and shops, the very same that the characters experienced in her stories…”  (The entire review, entitled “Ethel Wilson Would Approve,” is accessible online via this link.)

Reviewed by David Stouck,
in The Ormsby Review,
(March, 2019)

“… In these relatively long poems Bridgman tells stories, sets scenes and develops ideas, often using quite plain language but most imaginatively put together in many varieties of free verse…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Thomas Ovans,
in London Grip
(March, 2019)

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Excerpts from reviews of P.W. Bridgman’s selection of short fiction entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age (Libros Libertad, 2013):

“In Standing at an Angle to My Age, his debut collection of short fiction, P.W. Bridgman reveals himself as a strong new voice in Canadian literature. The stories in this collection cover vast ground; Bridgman takes the reader back and forth in time and across the Atlantic. From Ireland to Canada to Great Britain, from the present day to the Second World War, Bridgman renders each setting skilfully, both through physical detail and the nuances of each place and time’s characters and speech…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Tara Gilboy,
in PRISM International, 51:3
(Spring, 2013)

“… [L]anguage as taut as an Emily Dickinson poem … The stories in Standing at an Angle to My Age, while sometimes set abroad, are nonetheless markedly Canadian, some with specifically B.C. settings and references. They inhabit a wide range of genres and modes, but are distinguished by the steady craft of an elegant literary stylist.  Each piece is an experiment and P.W. Bridgman is a writer of exceptional talent…”  (To read the entire review, turn to page 11 of the November 2013 issue — the Douglas Coupland issue — of B.C. Bookworld accessible online via this link.)

Reviewed by David Stouck,
in B.C. Bookworld
(November, 2013)

“… The prose is spare, each word chosen with surgical precision.  The enigmatic Bridgman knows how to craft a sentence … [I]n the space of a page and a half [one of the flash fiction pieces] gives an Alice Munro-like spark of insight capturing a tiny moment, giving a small ping of epiphany…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Roberta Rich,
in the Advocate
(November, 2013)

“… Of P.W. Bridgman’s terse mastery of the short story there is no doubt … This is reading that sneaks up on the reader, leaving [him/her] reeling in its wake with just enough sensibility to think hard upon the content…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Arizahn,
in A New Ulster
(September, 2014)

“… This collection of stories takes the reader from Canada’s west coast to the British Isles. Bridgman does not rest too comfortably in any one form or style; he pushes himself to experiment with perspective, chronology and length … Some readers will relate to Bridgman as a fellow fan of modernism, and so will embrace a text peppered with modernist allusions. Others will be drawn in by his carefully crafted relationships. Any reader will savour the occasions when Bridgman pushes aside heavy detail and lingers in moments of pain, love, and resolve…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Kaarina Mikalson,
in The Bull Calf
(February, 2015)

“… Standing at an Angle to My Age was a vigorous read for me. I had the fun of churning up allusions, laughing, reading of characters both funny and not, and witnessing the many ways one can stand in a strange place while fitting in or standing out. I hope Bridgman continues to produce this unique kind of work. A substantial number of these tales are award-winning and rightfully so…”  (To read the entire review, click here.)

Reviewed by Angela Kubinec,
in Easy Street
(May, 2017)