Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mary Dalton

Some choice lines from Dalton's Red Ledger, Signal 2006

From "In the Yard"
The snow's got that corpse look,
and the sky's full of drowned men.
and here's November in Canada
A time of clods and stones.
Resignation, battening down. Digging in
the perennial bed: the clanging of pick
against boulders with roots set in China.
And sometimes she snatches poems from the air:
"Mr*. O'Brien's Tea"

Mr. O'Brien takes his tea
well-brewed: "strong enough,"
he says, "so a little mouse
could run over it."
In this collection Dalton moves away from the spare energy of the poems in Merrybegot to slightly more formal preoccupations, and to some degree, loses a bit of that original verbal energy. The poems seem strongest to this reader when they're tightest, as in "Riddles for Conception Bay," when they get at the voices and the particulars of the land.
I am a gape, an astonishment
with a little beard.
In my belly they have found
old rings, tin cans, a broken oar.
My children once were legion,
crammed the waters.
I loved Merrybegot, which I discovered while reading for Open Field and was happy to include her in that anthology, unknown to me or not. Sometimes the best choices are not the most obvious, and certainly are not always what we know.
*I originally read this poem with the title Mrs. O'Brien's tea...and well, that little "s" makes a big difference.

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