Love Is Not Anonymous

5 November 2015

Love is Not Anonymous
by Jan Wood
Published by Thistledown Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$12.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-056-6

It’s a happy coincidence when a poet’s name reflects one of his or her subjects. As I read Love is Not Anonymous, one of four books released as part of Thistledown Press’s 12th New Leaf Editions Series, I discovered that Jan Wood is an example of this synergy. Wood calls Big River SK home–anyone who knows this heavily-treed area will understand the name\leitmotif connection-and while the book’s back cover blurb addresses the poet’s handling of love, relationships and spirituality, I keep returning to the poems that indirectly honour the natural world.

Among these is “Awakening,” where the narrator’s night-driving on a rain-slick road, and “at the edge of the swamp-spruce” a bull moose appears. Though the poet tries to capture a decent photograph where “the Northern Saskatchewan forest\intertwines with moose, muskeg and sky,” her “Details of the night are\a thousand apertures and nothing”. She becomes philosophical in the final stanza, and it’s this layering-the real world of a bridge and rain and headlights juxtaposed against what it may all mean in the big picture-that marks this poem a success.

Clumsily human, I teeter
on the edge of oneness
slow my breath until
the beauty I behold can bear my weight.

More evidence of Wood’s fine way with the natural world is revealed in metaphors and personification. “Ringed moon in a January sky\a pale tambourine,” she writes in “Elle”. In “Dangerous as Whiskey,” which I’m assuming to be a spring poem, “water has its hands all over\the morning” and “night drips with a language\that it dares not speak.” Sometimes there’s a confluence of natural and religious images, as in this dandy from “communion”: “on Sundays a week’s supply of holy\melts on her tongue like a snowflake”. This, friends, is first-rate poetry.

I know the poet’s doing her job when she writes so evocatively of winter I find myself missing the snow and engaging in prairie-type activities, like skating. Wood’s poem “Skating in the Exit Light” features a twelve-year-old girl and a boy she’s interested in sneaking into the rink to steal some alone time-and figure eights-on the ice.

In several of these poems we’re given the poetic outline of an event and are called upon to use our imaginations to fill in the details. Some are more forthcoming, like “Duplex,” with its theme of domestic abuse. For those new to reading poetry, I advise reading the back cover copy and perhaps the publisher’s online notes (if available) about the work before beginning a book; poetry is often spare, and the aforementioned texts can provide helpful hints on the content.

Finally, a word about this book’s gorgeous cover. The photograph of a female statue (perhaps representative of the biblical Mary?) among red-berried conifers could be enough to make anyone grab this book off a shelf. I hope you do just that.


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