Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I'd previously wondered aloud what happens to a poet's work which is already nostalgic at a less-than-advanced age. 8-18 years after that defining Selected volume, Don Coles' Forests Of The Medieval World answers that. Nostalgia, to no surprise, still permeates. But it's informed with greater complexity, with a much more interesting ambiguous play between memory and reality, illusion and truth, impression and worth. The extended "Night Game" is a fearlessly honest experience/reminiscence on past action and interpretation. The original dismissal of his father's seemingly idiotic concentration "to the /Death" with the hockey game morphs into his observation of a baseball coach at a kids' softball game, and the realization that the coach did him a huge favour when they were schoolkids. Further complicating the remembrance is the speaker's wise perception that the coach might conclude, after reading the former's thoughts, that "no, this isn't how it is".

"Remembering Henty" is similar in that it both revels in and doubts the remembered absorption of a boy reading adventure yarns. Perhaps the joys are increased by nostalgia (they were never that intense), perhaps our concept of joy itself is inevitably debased, but those joys led to today's reality, however bemusing they may now appear. The final dark parallel is also profound.

"Untitled" is a rarity, and there should be many more poems (from other poets) of tentative enlightenment, dwarfing the plethora of mild "epiphany" anecdotes.

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