Watch­ing a Man Break a Dog’s Back, Po­ems for a Dark Time By Tom Wayman Har­bour Publishing

Vancouver Sun - - YOU - TOM SANDBORN Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Van­cou­ver. He wel­comes your feed­back and story tips at tos65@telus.net

De­spite W. H. Au­den’s in­sis­tence that “poetry makes noth­ing hap­pen,” those who make po­ems or love them tend to want to be­lieve Percy Bysshe Shel­ley was right when he called po­ets “the un­ac­knowl­edged leg­is­la­tors of mankind.”

We want the art­fully ar­ranged words, the com­pelling rhythms and the haunt­ing im­ages to add up to some­thing more than the plea­sures they de­liver.

Poetry, we want to in­sist, is more than plat­i­tudes and Pla­ton­ism in a sweet sauce, more than el­e­gantly posed and solved in­tel­lec­tual and es­thetic puz­zles, more even than the heart-pierc­ing plea­sures it some­times evokes — it can change the world.

The prize-win­ning B.C. poet Tom Wayman, best known for cham­pi­oning poetry that re­flects and re­spects the lives of or­di­nary work­ing peo­ple, sub­ti­tles his lat­est col­lec­tion Po­ems for a Dark Time, and he clearly wants to demon­strate that even if poetry can­not change the world, it can pro­vide com­fort and courage, even in times as dark as our own.

These are po­ems that as­pire to more than elab­o­rate word play or easy gusts of feel­ing.

Wayman can sketch the long arc of friend­ship and the an­guish of loss, as he does in a sec­tion of ele­gies.

He can ren­der the beau­ties of the ru­ral land­scape where he now makes his home in south­east­ern B.C. in one pas­sage, and the in­tri­cate dance of ego and am­bi­tion that sur­rounds life as an aca­demic in the next — and nail both with im­pres­sive power.

He can present hor­rific state vi­o­lence in Restora­tion of Or­der and then shift his tone to ten­der erotic mem­ory in Bed­spread.

Two po­ems, Why I Write and Rant: Who I Write For, can be use­fully read as Wayman’s credo — his at­tempt to jus­tify the odd busi­ness of poetry in the 21st cen­tury.

In the first he de­scribes his work as “Words, pages/launched into air/like a fan of yel­lowed leaves sub­mit­ted/by alder or birch/to Oc­to­ber’s winds.”

In the sec­ond, he lists his ideal read­ers as: “the losers, the creepy, the un­der­ground/out­laws be­cause no­body well ad­justed, “nor­mal”/in the judg­ment of a toxic/so­cial en­vi­ron­ment is likely to strive to­ward/ a fairer, more egal­i­tar­ian/eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal ar­range­ment.” So much for Au­den’s de­featism.

Wayman is still at work cre­at­ing po­ems that are as as­trin­gent and in­di­vid­ual as hu­man pain, and as univer­sal as our high­est hopes for a beloved com­mu­nity. Read­ers will be grate­ful for this record of his lat­est labours.

Tom Wayman

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