Okay, so I stated right from the start of this expedition through Canadian literature that I was going to go cross country starting at British Columbia and working my way across to the Maritime provinces. Once I hit Quebec I realized that this may not have been the best plan. I have a lot of reading to get done and if I take the time needed to complete No Logo by Naomi Klein I may not get through the challenge. So, the whole plan has been abandoned and I’m going to read in no particular order.
Before I get too involved in what I thought of this collection of poems I must say that I’m a) not a fan of poetry and b) have never mastered the art of writing about poetry (and I’m convinced there is an art to it because I rarely know people are saying when they get into the technical side of poetry and when they read into a poem). I must also confess that the last time I took any time reading poetry was in university, unless you are talking about the master poet Shel Silverstein! Anyway, now that I got that weighty confession off my chest I feel I can move on and talk about Unsettled by Zachariah Wells.
There was something that these poems were reminding me of, or I guess I should say another collection of poems that I have. It took me well into the Wells collection before I gasped in horror when it dawned on me that these were reminiscent of poems I read by Margaret Atwood in university. It took everything I had in to not throw the book to the ground and begin performing a much needed exorcism. I guess what I’m trying to say I had a bad experience with Atwood’s poetry and would have been happier to leave that where it belonged…in the past. But I resisted those urges and read on.
There were a few poems that I found tolerable but nothing that I really enjoyed. There aren’t many poems that I do like so, again I’m probably not the one to be passing judgment here. There are two poems that I have read that I can say I have truly enjoyed and will often go back and read several times over. The first being the first work of literature that I had to read while at Canadian Mennonite University for Paul Dyck’s Introduction to English The Dream of the Rood. The Dream of the Rood can be read online here. I’m not totally sure why I fell in love with this poem but it’s one that has stuck with me. The second being Death Be Not Proud by John Dunne, I’m sure many of you know it but for those of you who don’t here it is:
|DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee|
|Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,|
|For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,|
|Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.|
|From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,||5|
|Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,|
|And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,|
|Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.|
|Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,|
|And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,||10|
|And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,|
|And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;|
|One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,|
|And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.|
There is something very visceral about this poem, it gets right to essence of human nature and confronts the fears that many of us have. But I digress, this has nothing to do with Unsettled, except that the poems in Unsettled didn’t move me in the ways that these other two poems have.
There were one or two poems in this collection that I didn’t mind but certainly didn’t love them. I found them difficult to read because of the awkward breaks in the sentences and his use of the “&” symbol instead of just using “and”. Finally, I felt often that when I was reading these poems I was missing out on an inside joke or story. And in that sense it felt a little voyeuristic, which I guess is a little interesting.
Like I said at the beginning I’m not really a fan of poetry and I’m probably not the one you should come to for advice on other poems to read. If you’d like another review of the book see what John had to say about it at The Book Mine Set. He gave a much more positive review of the book than I have. You can go here and then scroll down the page until you hit February 15th.