The Wedding Reels by Joyce Rankin (Breton Books, no price given) is a little volume of poems to which, for once, the words “deceptively simple” might be applied. However, a second reading reverses this judgment.
While the subjects are endurance, women’s lives, a child’s death — to name some of the principal ones — the way in which they’re stated, without unusual words or decorations of any kind, bespeaks a writer who both thinks and feels.
Anyone who can read can grasp something of what’s in these poems, and even the wisest philosopher can appreciate them. It’s recommended.
At one time, Don Domanski would have been classified as a “nature poet.” Certainly most of his poems are about nature — or, rather, take place in it. The overall impression one gets from them — in Bite down Little Whisper (Brick Books, $20) as in earlier collections — is of someone sitting in a wood listening to all the small sounds and seeing all the small but varied movements in the undergrowth — all this after dark. Here is an example:
I wait for you while a coyote’s footsteps
circle me like paper ships on water while (footsteps)
is drenched with falling voices that one collected at the heliopause
and owls shine the nacre behind their wide eyes
(from Waiting for Arcturus)
Such poems should be read in a whisper.
Two things to notice in this and other poems: no human beings appear — who or what? is the “you” in the first line; and the verses contain a number of unusual words, such as “heliopause” and “nacre” in the verse quoted above.
Every lover of poetry should read this volume. As well as being beautiful, it is original. Don Domanski comes from Cape Breton, though he lives in Halifax now. But it seems that from Cape Breton spring the origins of his uniqueness. It’s highly recommended.
“Bit Parts for Fools” by Peter Richardson (Icehouse Poetry, Goose Land, $19.95) is characterized on the back as crackling “with innovative language, in the deliciously quirky titles and the poems themselves: elaborate, complex and often wonderfully ambivalent.” All this seems true and may explain why the poems in this collection take two readings (at least) in order to understand what each is all about.
Some of the “quirky titles” are: A Midwife’s Late Sabbatical, A Family Member Resurfaces as a Moose, Listening to a Recently Dried-Out Lena While Watching Harold Lloyd Hang from a clock Face at the Mayfair and Telecommuting Spouses.
Even some of the simple titles like Favour and Solace introduce poems beginning:
Let me genuflect before our Kelvinator and with a broom...
And: With cognition as its mahout
the mind, in its bone howdah,...”
Elizabeth Cran, a freelance writer, writes a column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at 111 Sydney St., Apt. 17, Saint John, N.B., E2L 2L8, or call her at 506-693-5498.