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Bruce Hunter's 10th book, from Italy

Galestro (2023)

Galestro, a new release from Bruce Hunter
"[A]n important book by an extraordinary writer in the top tier of contemporary Canadian poets." - Marsha Barber, author of Kaddish for My Mother.

Discover the latest release from poet and author Bruce Hunter - Galestro

This stunning collection of poetry takes readers on a journey through the beauty and complexity of life through vivid imagery and lyrical language. The book takes its name from a sandy, mineral-rich soil found in the Chianti vineyards of Tuscany, which gives the region's wines a unique flavour. In Bruce's own words, "Galestro is the essence, the grain of life." Bruce's new release, published in Italy by I Quaderni del Bardo Edizioni, is an ode to the essence of life itself. 


Galestro, of the book’s title, is the name of the mineral-rich and stony soil of Tuscany. It’s the hard till that nurtures the Sangiovese vines and the Chianti that flows through poems like love. Smooth-flowing Chianti and stony hard till are wonderful metaphors that thread throughout the collection. Perhaps it is for this “flow” that Bruce Hunter has arranged the poems without distinct sections. However, the poems have been carefully organized. In the initial poems, Hunter reflects on his youth and working years; the middle section celebrates Tuscany and love; and the last poem circles back, exploring a theme introduced early on. Individual poems are constructed on a framework of details, which of course creates the pull of authenticity, but we also find allusion, together engaging both our love of facts and our love of fancy.


One poem that reflects on Hunter’s young years in and around Calgary surprised me with the flavour of a Patrick Lane poem. In no way does the poem mimic Lane, which makes it hard to put my finger on what exactly made me sit up in my chair when I read “Skyhooks” (30-33). In the poem, Hunter begins by describing kites:


Each of them angling for light, 
strung between existence and dream
trolling for skyfish or errant angels
lost in the lure of clouds.


But then he quickly moves to a tough work scene, the stuff of early Lane (and of Tom Wayman, too), before he brings humour into the poem. A complex juggle of tone, beauty, and grit.


The primary subject of the first sixty-five pages is the geography and people of Hunter’s childhood in Calgary and his adult life in Toronto, although there’s a wide range of themes and metaphors layering the poetry.  Then, to celebrate his actual retirement, Hunter travels with his wife to Italy. It is here we gain the benefit of Hunter’s apprenticeship as a gardener and arborist (as he tells us in “Lost and Found in Cortona,” p 90-93). This deep knowledge creates the details that make the Italian poems so fascinating. It is also here, in these Tuscany poems that we see Lisa as lover-muse. For example, in the title poem “Galestro” (p 76-83):


I learned to read soil in my apprenticeship,
and sky and wind, on the highest point of land,
where rain is made, and wine,
somewhere between alchemy and prayer,
reverence and ritual….


Hunter is sensitivo in his knowledge of gardening, but there’s been a subtle switch and suddenly Lisa, his wife, is sensitiva:


…the woman who teaches the heart,
who reads my eyes, who claims the animals, heals the beloved.


This is Bruce Hunter’s tenth book. His writing apprenticeship has led to multi-layered poems that offer at once a clear, straightforward read and, if you sit with them, a complex understanding of life, love, and endings. Much of my recent reading has included single-theme collections and book-length poems. Reading Galestro has forced a re-think. Hunter’s voice, as you can see, is wide-ranging. I’m breaking free of my mold.


For another example of Hunter’s versatility, “Ligurian Poppies” introduces the poet as witness:


Bomb cracks in the University of Bologna.
The missing towers of the Castello.
Neptune can hold back the sea
but not the vile will of hard men.


The collection is all metaphor.


In “The Rooks in the Sycamores at the Tomb at Dunn” (98-107), the final poem in the collection, Hunter reflects on a visit to the far northeastern edge of Scotland, Caithness, the Tomb of Dunn and of Hunter’s forebearers:


The tomb’s open now, pillaged.
The plank lid torn off and left where it landed.
Vines cover the chapel’s window-less walls.
The roof long ago gone….


And there’s an alder sapling between their graves.
Seeds from the ancient forest brought up by gravediggers.
One day the alder will crack the stone.
Trees stronger than stone in their kinetic lift.


When we search for the ancestors, for what are we searching? Hunter takes us on a journey through language and naming, through mythic and physical places, concluding the poem and collection with: and if I had one wish: / I be that tree, / stronger than stone in its lift. / And that my friends, is the gist.


What is there to say after that?

Galestro is a big book (8 x 10 inches, 122 pages) of poetry by Bruce Hunter, translated from English (on the left page) into Italian by Andrea Sirotti (on the right). It is a pleasure for word-lovers to see how the words fall and follow, a treat to compare and imagine how they sound and what they evoke in the second language. - Kathryn (Kate) MacDonald, Poet & Writing Facilitator. Photographer. Eclectic Reader & Reviewer.

“In this, his tenth book, award-winning writer Bruce Hunter is in his prime, creating poetry that’s bold, sensuous and rich as the Italian soil he extols… Quite simply, this is an important book by an extraordinary writer in the top tier of contemporary Canadian poets.” - Marsha Barber, Toronto-based poet, professor, and author of Kaddish for My Mother.

"Approaching Bruce Hunter’s poems is like listening to the warm, rich voice of a sincere friend. The guy who has been through a lot in life and who by virtue of this great experience and humanity is able to find the right word, the wise motto, the image that surprises and heartens. A poetry in many respects therapeutic, empathic... There is above all a lot of Italy, right from the title, which recalls the substance of the rock and the fragrant scents of wine. A hymn to our country, to its art, to the beauty of the landscapes and people, to the taste of the fruits of the earth. And it is here, in Italy, between Tuscany and Salento, that we welcome Bruce and offer him our best hospitality through translation, hoping to render him a good service as he generously renders it to us readers and interpreters.” - Andrea Sirotti, Florence-based teacher, writer, editor and translator of Galestro.

"GALESTRO is a wonderful book. I loved every page. The poems here are the work of an extremely fine wordsmith, a very genuine lyrical imagination. More, they're passionate and clear and utter with great strength and care what it means to be human. I can't recommend this collection enough." - Russell Thornton, Canadian Poet.

“His poems are tributes to the environment of being and are deeply human… His observational detail is unparalleled as he speaks to aging, love, culture, the earth, and mostly the real beating heart at the centre of it all.” - Dr. Micheline Maylor-Kovitz, Calgary-based poet, professor, and author of The Bad Wife.

“The poems in Bruce Hunter’s Galestro remind us that we live in the space where opposites meet and connect, between earth and sky, youth and age, ancient stories and present plagues, first rain and poisoned waters, the living and the dead. He explores the timeless questions, like boyhood, married love, and the meaning of an individual life by evoking the essence of the terroir of his places of the heart: Alberta, Tuscany, and the Orkney islands. And fittingly, each poem in this beautiful and wise book faces (and is doubled) by Andrea Sirotti’s skilled Italian translation.” - Caterina Edwards, Edmonton-based novelist, author of The Sicilian Wife.

"Bruce Hunter shows in Galestro how in sad moments, we seek out sacred places; what we have forgotten, and what we learned from the elders. To discover with surprise that we are already the ingredients of these sacred places, the lands that permeate us, our stellar origins. And the arc and tension between these two realities are pacified and fulfilled when in our dreams we visit the highest point between earth and the sky, so we can drink from the clouds. I love this book. Powerful, full of places and jumps in time and memories. With a lot of Italy and a lot of Canada. And all my memories seem to match so much with his. I am proud and thankful to have helped with some of these translations." - Sandro Pecchiari Trieste-based poet, anthologist, author of Alle spalle delle cose.

“This new collection of poetry by Bruce Hunter has been published in Italy, with Italian translations by Andrea Sirotti. It will no doubt introduce the award-winning Canadian poet to a broader international readership. Galestro is a fine collection of some of my favourite Bruce Hunter poems, including "Two O'Clock Creek," as well as moving and evocative newer works. Hunter has long held a passion for the richness of history -- the places like British Columbia's high Chilcotin desert and people ranging from Scottish grandmothers to Blackfoot / Kainai elders. In the newer works here, Hunter explores the layers of myth and meaning in Italy - cart tracks, stacks of olive wood - discovering "a place I've never been but always known."

Galestro is published in a handsome large format (8 x 10"), with English poems and Italian translation on facing pages. Hunter has long been an advocate for accessibility in publishing, and these clean, spacious pages make this an inviting read. The inclusion of extensive notes to the poems should be especially helpful to Italian readers, who might not be familiar with some of the Canadian cultural and historical references.

These are warm, inviting, thoughtful poems. Savour them as you would a lovingly prepared meal on a warm cobblestone Italian piazza, with a glass of Chianti.” - Lorne Daniel, Goodreads, April, 2023.


Bruce Hunter smiling warmly

Bruce Hunter

Award-winning Poet & Author

Bruce Hunter’s poems, stories and essays have appeared in over 80 publications in Canada, China, India, Italy, the U.K and the US. His 10th and newest book, Galestro (2023) follows A Life in Poetry (2022) both from iQdB edizioni in Italy. In 2021, his memoir essay “This is the Place I Come to in My Dreams,” was shortlisted for the Alberta Magazine Publishers' Awards for Essays, and in 2017, Bruce was Calgary Public Library's Author in Residence. Today, Bruce Hunter is an active editor, speaker and mentor. And he's a proud new grandpa.


Galestro Book Cover 2023 by Bruce Hunter
Cover of Bruce Hunter's Book, A Life in Poetry (2022)
Cover of Bruce Hunter's (2019) Country Music Country




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