Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stephen Rowe's Roundup

Stephen Rowe has posted a roundup of his 2009 reading over on his blog. It includes some commentary on both Jailbreaks and Track & Trace:



Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets, Zach Wells (Ed.): You can’t read too many sonnets. It’s the one form that has been so well received and so versatile as to resist time’s ravages. This book contains a wonderful variety of sonnets from a number of well-known and lesser known sonneteers across the country. There are no particular topics that Wells has adhered to in the selecting, but has instead let quality and freshness be the deciding factor. Highs: Great poems all around, with some wonderful treasures I have not read and authors I had not been aware of at the time of reading. Lows: The majority of these poems are more contemporary, some of which are quite recent. This is admirable, but I think this was done at some cost to expressing past writers more fully. Generally speaking however, I do believe contemporary poets deserve plenty of exposure, so if this is Wells’ purpose he has succeeded brilliantly.

Track & Trace, Zach Wells: Speaking of Zach Wells, did you know he released a book of poems this year? As a proponent of metrical and formal verse he does a great job of showing his own skill at the craft. The art for the book, by the way, is done by Seth and is quite fitting for the volume. Highs: Some excellent poems here that cover a variety of settings and topics, but seem to focus more on the northern bounds of Canada and, in some places, Scotland. Wells has also provided us a volume of poetry that doesn’t contain much filler; there are 30-odd poems, keeping the contents trimmed to showcase more good poems, undiluted. Lows: I would have liked to see Wells attempt a variety of other poetic forms beyond sonnets and a couple other metrically driven structures. That said, the ones included are quite competently composed.


I've nothing to say about his evaluative comments, but a couple of factual errors need to be addressed. Only one of the poems in T&T is set in a northern Canadian locale ("Mussel Mud," versions of which appeared in my first book, which is entirely set in northern locations) and one in Scotland ("Orkney Report"). The other 32 are set, explicitly or otherwise, in PEI, Montreal, Vancouver, New Westminster, Halifax, Diligent River (NS) and Nowhere-in-Particular, so I'm a bit puzzled by Stephen's geography.

Also, depending on how you count such things, around 15 of the 34 poems in T&T are neither sonnets (including very loose sonnets like "He Learns Faith in His Instincts" and "Water Works," which have neither rhyme scheme nor meter), nor metrical, nor stanzaic, but different variations on free verse, so it's not strictly accurate to state that I attempted only "sonnets and a couple other metrically driven structures."



4 comments:

Stephen said...

Zach,

I appreciate that you point out the errors in my post. I usually have a book with me when I comment on it, but this was not the case here. The poems that share a winter landscape (in addition to the book's design) lead me to the erroneous statement regarding the setting in much of the book, which could not be checked without T & T in front of me. I apologize for this as I do not wish to misrepresent your work and will make corrections to it. Thanks again.

Stephen

Zachariah Wells said...

No worries, Stephen, it's not like you were slagging the book by saying it's northern. Seth's drawings, which use a couple of my poems (including the longest one) as jumping-off points, have led others to say that it's a snowy book, but again, this is a minority of the poems in the book, which begins and ends with poems clearly not set in winter. Not that it would be a bad thing if it was a wintry book--it just ain't is all.

Zachariah Wells said...

Oh and btw, I recommend David Ferry's translation of Horace's Odes. I don't know how "faithful" they are, but they read like good modern poems.

Stephen said...

Zach,

I haven't read Ferry's edition, but I will certainly look into it. Sometimes good modern translations of these things can be hard to find.