Wonderfully accomplished and highly original, this debut collection does with language what miners have always done to the earth: peel back the layers, churn up the patterns, and extract what lies below the surface.
The Stuntman relocates the myth of Echo and Narcissus to the mining town of Hibbing, Minnesota, and draws inspiration from the high school relationship between Bob Dylan and Echo Helstrom—a.k.a. “The Girl From the North Country”—that took place there. At once whimsical and refreshingly earnest, playful and yet richly grounded in one of the founding myths of Western civilization, The Stuntman deploys images that are often as quirky as they are illuminating, and explores the protean nature of the self as well as the challenges of being a self in social and intimate relationships.
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Praise and Prizes
“The Stuntman reveals Brian Laidlaw’s unique talent in deadpan, witty poems that flash with plangent images and macabre moments.”
“The Stuntman is a dazzling first book: an all-night thrill revival, a jamboree of ecstatic yawps. Brian Laidlaw is a poet of tremendous lyric gifts and emotive modulation, full of jubilance and unwavering freshness. The associative technique in each of these missives corkscrews and swerves through the broken world with dispatches of yearning, growing these big-hearted and fearless experiments of structure and voice into a gorgeously raw-throated orchestra.”
“‘The earth broke open cause we broke it open.’ Brian Laidlaw knows, as Bruce Chatwin wrote, that an unsung land is a dead land. The Stuntman resurrects sonic fragments of folk knowhow by threading them back through the thrashing heart of American lyric. He wrangles Bob Dylan’s idiot wind into the hothouse breath of each line’s conspiracy: ‘I am part of the collective / idiocy, the anthill a commons and a summons.’ In this gorgeous debut, he takes what’s common and small and stronger than it knows and bids it sing: ‘I have been staring at the sun long enough I’m ready to be the sun.’”
“These poems punch a hole right through the wall separating me from magic, leaping back and forth as if the wall were a fire—between the quotidian and the ecstatic, between a commons and a summons, breaking down antagonymic barriers so the sun shines through.”