Monday, 5 October 2009

Review: Scattering Ashes, by Dan Wyke

Following my post about Dan Wyke a few weeks ago, I’ve now managed to get hold of a copy of his pamphlet, titled Scattering Ashes (Waterloo Press, 2004). After poring over it these last few days, I can report that it’s excellent. This is the kind of poetry I love reading and seldom find, poetry that is attuned to the everyday so as to transcend it. What do I mean? Well, here’s an example from “Deer”:

"…the joint
basking in its juices, warm wine,
a film unspooling silently as we slept;
the pleasurable domestic things
that keep a relationship simmering
just below fulfillment…"

Dan Wyke wrote most of these poems while still in his twenties, but the pamphlet shows us a fully formed, individual voice in control of its material. The following stanza from “In The Dark” illustrates this point:

“The light-bulb’s life ends with a chink –
a teaspoon clipping the rim of a cup –
and the dark, previously disguised, shows itself.”

We want to discover ourselves in an image, see something familiar in a new light, and Wyke’s delicate use of “previously disguised” serves just this purpose, transforming the words around it into something special, forcing us to reassess the stanza.

As for minor quibbles, I do feel Wyke overstrains for effect once or twice, when writing of this quality doesn’t need to do so. A few images also seem slightly facile and unenlightening, such as “Your round face glowing like a moon”. Nevertheless, these small uneven patches don’t spoil the overall achievement of the pamphlet.

Dan Wyke’s poems deserve a far wider readership. This is the sort of work that would be ensured popularity among those who feel that poetry can and should be a comprehensible yet challenging art. I understand a full collection, titled “Another Life”, may well be forthcoming in the near future, but for the moment “Scattering Ashes” is a terrific book in its own right and is still available from Waterloo Press. In the meantime, I’d like to finish this review by letting his poetry speak for itself:


While we’ve been reconciling,
the rain has adorned the garden: our spruce
bowing under the glistening freight
of beaded water.
We stand back, watchful.
We know something so exquisitely poised
cannot last.

No comments:

Post a Comment