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Ending with Music

Ending with Music (Brick, 2002) is a book of poems about making sense of a past that includes post-reformation martyrs, war atrocities in Russia and Europe, the Great Depression on the prairies, and a present that includes fundamentalist Christianity, pornography on the Internet, and the place of poetry and music in a postmodern world.

Popular culture is celebrated in the form of old Hollywood movies, jazz musicians, and country music lyrics. Many of the poems are concerned with “religious” violence and contradictory claims to meaning and significance. Parts of the book are based on family stories coming out of a Russian Mennonite background. Some of the stories come from the Martyrs’ Mirror, a sixteenth century Anabaptist text that enshrines folk narratives celebrating faith and martyrdom in a thoroughly neurotic way.

Other poems revolve around historical figures like Randall Jarrell and Louis Armstrong. There are recurring stories of suicide and murder, but also poems like the title piece, which is about Lenny Breau and implies a transcendence through art, no matter how temporary.

“I love the off-centre take in so many of these poems, the dark-sided humour, the odd focuses, always the restless intelligence. Characters are palpable in a wholly physical world, a loved world, shifting abruptly from time to time, a physical world with spirit illuminating it here and there. Sometimes a dark corner is almost lit, but the light moves on. People die in their sins, and in their goodness. Words and intentions preside over all of it.” – Patrick Friesen

“Mierau’s poems are full of movement and human noise. They launch narratives with spin, invite silence, then linger on the ear.” – Carol Shields

Book cover design by Alan Siu, based on an image by Daniel Corrigan of the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, where American poet John Berryman ended his life in 1972.