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Pain-Proof Men 

John Wall Barger (Palimpsest Press)

In "Storm Night at Gus' Pub," Barger presents the bar as a nexus of magic (the musical variety, in this case) and misery. They should print the verse on the venue's walls to complement the forest photo-mural. He situates many poems in the mythological north end, geographically central Halifax: along Agricola, where, in "Cousin's Diner," a short-order cook plates dishes and wishes for customers. Whether alone or in the company of his old dog, Ruka, on The Common, or at intersections ("Corner of Creighton & Falkland," a short, sharp piece), readers occupy the city's exterior and Barger's interior, witnessing how one fits and fashions the other. Occasionally an opacity settles over the work: the verses exploring European history, addressing famous figures (John Wayne, Cary Grant), but these are few and far between Halifax's here and now.

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