Falsework is a generous book of narrative poetry that tells the story of the collapse of Vancouver’s Second Narrows Bridge in 1958 while it was being built. Geddes imagines the collapse from the perspectives of workers and families affected by the accident.
The language is by turns sophisticated and rudimentary, concrete and abstract, technical and domestic, sexy and sad. Geddes switches voices with each new poem, and doesn’t always tell the reader who is speaking. This continual shift keeps things fresh but can also be confusing.
There are some characters in the Falsework that you want to hear more of–sub plots that you get a snippet of before moving on–interrupted love stories, like the woman who makes her boyfriend write “ALICE FUCKS ALEXANDER” on the bridge.
The narrator is also a character–he tells you how progress on the book’s research is coming along, how he visits the bridge and obsesses over it.
Falsework is a support; a temporary structure put up to hold arches while they are being built. It was a failure in the falsework that caused the bridge to collapse.
Not surprisingly, the over-arching metaphor in Falsework is bridges–striving for two sides, two people, to come together–and failures to bridge.
In “A Matter of Speaking,” Geddes writes, “The bridge/ is a metaphor. From the Greek,/ metaphor, meaning/ to transfer, to bear across.”
There’s a tension between intellectual and physical in Falsework, and often the physical wins, as in “Talking Dirty”: “I’ll give you a top-chord,/ a diagonal, a front-end rig. If not a bolt,/ at least a good screw. Trade your skyline/ for a waistline.”
by Gary Geddes, $19.95, 127 pgs, Goose Lane Editions, Suite 330, 500 Beaverbrook Court, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5X4, gooselane.com