THE ADVOCATE 283
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
By R.C. Tino Bella*
A Lamb by P.W. Bridgman, Ekstasis Editions, 2018, 120 pages, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-77171-273-6, English, $23.95 CAD
Reviewed by Daniel Cowper
“Inside every lawyer is the wreck of a poet” is a much-quoted remark of
Clarence Darrow. But sometimes the poet survives inside the lawyer, and
the same human being fiddles with a contract or factum in the morning,
and with a sonnet over lunch.
“P.W. Bridgman” (a nom de plume) has excelled in a long legal career under
his own name, while building a literary reputation, pseudonymously, as a
writer of both short fiction and poetry. The recent collection and publication
of a volume of his poems by Ekstasis Editions under the title of A Lamb
presents the legal profession with poetry written from its own perspective.
The legal perspective on the world is itself of some aesthetic interest. Our
equivalent of the public sphere—the courtroom—is a circus of vulnerability
and exposure. Like a church, a courthouse is one of the few public places
where dirty laundry is aired—where confession and repentance are
demanded and rewarded.
Undoubtedly as a result of Bridgman’s experience of the criminal justice
system, the majority of A Lamb is made up of poems that honour the private
disasters of ordinary people. Such poems, rather than examining the
poet’s own life, offer dignity and understanding to a crowd of strangers who
have made terrible mistakes.
The gulf that exists, because of good luck or bad, between a mistake that
ends in catastrophe and a mistake without consequence is a recurrent
theme throughout the collection. For example, in “Burnt Sienna”, an alcoholic
woman from western Canada exposes herself to a delivery boy, but