In The Mirrormaker, songwriter and poet Brian Laidlaw melds myths ancient and contemporary among the raspberries, wolves, and taconite mines of Minnesota’s Iron Range.
A companion volume to Laidlaw’s 2015 project, The Stuntman, this collection fuses the stories of two fabled couples: the mythical Narcissus and Echo, and Bob Dylan and Echo Star Helstrom, subject of the song “Girl from the North Country.” But where The Stuntman focused on Narcissus, The Mirrormaker takes its primary inspiration from Echo, drawing on ecocritical readings of American history and interrogating the masculine logic of resource extraction.
In these poems, Laidlaw explores themes of history and celebrity, love and longing, myth and meaning, in a landscape both ravaged and redemptive. He pits romantic obsession against self-obsession—“The first time I saw the moon / I thought it was my idea”—and asks whether a meaningful distinction can ever be drawn between the two. These themes are explored further in a companion song suite, written by Laidlaw and recorded with a longtime collaborator from the Iron Range, that accompanies this book via download.
Sharp, searching, and ecstatically musical, The Mirrormaker is a genre-expanding exploration of boom and bust—in mining economies and in young love.
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Praise and Prizes
“Laidlaw is a futuristic country poet-singer in the other side of the century’s mirror, where consumption, celebritifying, and commodification rule as the earth rots from the inside out . . . Laidlaw is singing the trails and singeing the words as he hears ‘an alternate gospel.’ When he writes, ‘the replica me heartbreaking the replica you,’ one wonders at the possibilities of love, of sincerity in simulacra. Brian Laidlaw is living proof that the bard is still with us.”
“The brilliant lyrical mind of Brian Laidlaw engages the way echo works among words, between words and the world. Sound returns from the world’s surfaces to the singer’s ears to give evidence, to accuse, or to console. This is a poet who knows the complications of the human voice, and of the ventriloquial voices assigned by poetry to the things of the world: ‘they dance a dance / called formerness / / Echo is them,’ he writes of sparrows. Like echo, what returns from the listener is a symmetry: ‘you hope for some applause / to reveal what show you’re in.’ The applause this book deserves is loud, but the opposite of deafening.”
“Brian Laidlaw reinvented the moon and he didn’t even have to go to outer space to do it. He is an inner space man. A stargazer, vagabond, singer, and poet cut from the American grain, dreamswept like a prairie at night and fiery as a smelting stack. His words resonate with the homespun echo of a cigar box guitar, and report with a crack of thunder. How lucky to have this new collection of his poems.”