The Coffin Nail Blues is Ted Pearson's latest work, comprising sixty-four poems in eight movements. In these poems, the spirit of the blues suffuses a formally concise blend of epigram and epitaph, verse and prose, to produce "a time-lapse view of inexistence." Although these poems are dark, they navigate the darkness with a deftness of touch, a musical takt, that embraces the dark without succumbing to it.
As he writes of the tango, which could also be a totentanz, "El abrazo es más importante que el paso" (the embrace is more important than the steps). In this work, libidinal and political economies cross paths—"The border guards look like wallflowers. / Someone should ask them to dance"—as do the living and the dead—"Haunted less by the few words I find / than the fate of those who left them behind."
Implicit here is a living tradition in which words survive their makers to the benefit of those who come after. The Coffin Nail Blues is a substantial addition to a body of work that spans fifty years.