The first poem, “1. Dave gets born” sets the main contract for the book—each piece will surprise at the turn with the impact of a sudden sliding off of a cliff:
I seemed to be way up on a mountain
But it was just the Niagara Escarpment.
And then I realized I was going somewhere—
Something was happening, I didn’t know what.
The offhanded tone conceals density. Taking advantage of the form to unapologetically set the scene with short declaratives, there’s something positively Hemingway-esque about both the style and expectation of some audacious thought, which McFadden tends to deliver on, sans self-importance, achieved perhaps with just the addition of a very Canadian modifier:
34. Thunder and Lightning
Christ says let the dead bury the dead
Maybe Christ was saying let the grief stricken
Continue to be as grief-stricken as they want.
The back cover does a disservice to the reader by mentioning the author’s logophenic aphasia (progressive loss of linguistic capability). Actually the book may be inaptly named, as there’s little abnormal about the poems or scenes, and concreteness adds nothing to the experience of a poem such as the one below, in fact distracting from a rather useful mystery or fantasy:
All of a sudden I can’t read a word of it!
Where my head was there’s only a cloud!
It took its time floating back and re-
Positioning itself perfectly on my neck.
The memories McFadden calls up have an authenticity that is quite Canadian, reflecting thoughts many a sensitive soul growing up in Ontario may have had: “…They / Let us climb all over our First / World War Canadian artillery gun”; even better, “Yes, he definitely remembered being haunted / By the women in Margaret Laurence’s novels”; and the Joycean, “There’s a woman standing on the little cliff: / The wind’s blowing her dress between her legs.”
The poems are technically relaxed, generally free of the sonnet’s constraints. There tends to be some strong, slant, or sight rhyme in the sestet that when used provides a satisfying echo:
I wandered through the Forget of Veilfulness
Where salmon on Dexedrine practise their scales
And waterfalls embarrass Viagra patients
Certain views and viewpoints, should they choose
To tinker with the very direction of time
Or to capture those who shoot or practise rhyme.
The inclusion of a 2005 interview with McFadden is a welcome addition to give insight into this bravely independent thinker whose latest volume entices readers to return to the text over and again.
Roy Wang is from Toronto, but has lived in Detroit for the last 12 years. He has reviewed poetry for the online New Pages, and has been published in Prairie Fire, Jones Av., and Shit Creek Review.
OPEN YOUR MIND TO ARC!