Trouble SleepingBook - 2000
"If only my cousin had kept off me, kept out of me his brown fly-strop glue, his shot dog-eye cream. Afterwards, he would comb my hair to a wet Elvis point between my eyes and warn me what his wolves would do to me, and where I'd be sent, if I ever told."
This experience is at the core of Phil Hall's Trouble Sleeping. It is the source of bad dreams and also, paradoxically, the source of his crisp, luminous text. Trouble Sleeping makes visible the poetry of hopeful despair by remembering a poor working class family of Irish descent, living outside the margins of respectability at the edge of the Laurentian Shield in mid-Northern Ontario in the 1950s. This raw world is seen by a child who is a misfit in it (especially among its brutal, drunken males). That child will eventually come to speak for the plight of unregarded misfits in society at large. "Orthodontics is a class issue" to the writer looking back on a time when it never occurred to his parents that crooked teeth might be fixed - not that they could have afforded it. In Trouble Sleeping, working a variation on the Japanese form of haibun, Hall alternates prose passages with poems that reflect nightmarishly on the interwoven narratives.