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Tom Wayman. Waiting for Wayman. McClelland & Stewart, $4.95. Tom Wayman. For and Against the Moon: Blues, Yells, and Chuckles. Macmillan of Canada, no price listed. Tom Wayman (ed.). Beaton Abbot's Got the Contract: An Anthology of Working Poems. Newest Press, $1.00. Poets share with plumbers and electricians the craft of making connections . Metaphor is a welding of joints, one shred of our experience twisted end-to-end with another. It is the poet saying: In these highest ranges, the trees assemble. They stand along the slopes, and across the flat river valleys, pilgrims under the immense shrine of rock. Here metaphor binds together the sense of dignity and religious mission which we associate with pilgrims, and the sense of natural compulsion, of alpine clarity, which we associate with mountain trees. Metaphors, similes, images laid side-by-side are summed into the poem, which becomes a sort of wiring diagram, shunting the juice of our understanding from bit to bit of our experience . One way of judging a poet is to ask what kinds of connections he makes, which areas of our experience he wires together. Tom Wayman, a thirty-year-old Canadian now living in Vancouver, author of two volumes and editor of one, seems to me a valuable poet,, a necessary poet, because he connects the world of work to the life of mind and body, like other poets he also writes of love, nature, friendship, death: but he writes of these matters with an awareness that most of us spend our days laboring and in North America at least, laboring at alienating tasks. In a poem from his first collection, Waiting for Wayman, a woman asks, how can these things be here economics next to Love? What is the poem working for? Economics, Wayman shows us in poem after poem, has everything to do with love: not economics in the grand sense of supply and demand, but in the personal sense of getting and spending, the daily struggle to survive in an industrial society. He shoves economics next to love because he wants us to see that the rhythms and quality of our loving are shaped by our labors. This perception is what the poetry is working for. The labor which he chronicles for us, in language as direct as the motions of labor themselves, in his own voice and in the voices of fellow workers, is heavy and wearing: wrecking crews, lumbering, smelting, construction, tunneling , assembly-line. The daily price of such jobs is exhaustion, the body turned into an instrument of labor, rented to an employer: Days when the work does not end. When the bath at home is like cleaning another tool of the owner's A tool which functions better with the dust gone from its pores. So that tomorrow the beads of sweat can break out again along trouser-legs and sleeves. Occasionally, Wayman reminds us, the price is higher. There is Alexander, for example, to whom he devotes several poems in the second volume, For and Against the Moon: 126 Twenty years in Kitimat, going up in the early 50's to work in the crews building the smelter the dam at Kemano, the power tunnels, the townsite. Then back a few years later, to work on the line tending pots, shift after shift in the heat and sweat the years of a man's life. Missed his step once on the rim of a pot, no railing, his foot slipped into the crust of the molten mix cloth and skin baked in a second. Wayman holds this scalded foot before us, takes us inside the wrung bodies of men trooping home from factories, because he wants us to see the connection between these sufferings and our own comforts. Virtually everything we use — eat, wear, sleep inside — in a day's time is the product of human labor. Obviously, we say. And yet the links are rarely welded so tightly as in Wayman's poetry: every piece of cutlery even in the most metaphysical of houses is made from metal grubbed out of the earth by someone, carried overland in some sort of conveyance and signed for by agents...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 126-129
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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