Ghost Music, Mark D. Dunn's first book is a wonderful discovery. Anyone who dedicates a poem to Gil Scott Heron is already stepping in the right direction for me, but if you can throw John Coltrane, Wendell Clarke and William Blake into the mix then I am yours.
Dunn delights the reader with poem after poem full of insight and humour. There may be traces of a dark undertow but Dunn is deft and daring so these poems are more of a celebration than a dirge.
The cross went up a century ago.
Dear old ladies and gents took coins
from children to make the cross
gaze neon, godly, from the clay hills over Bawating.
Now they pass the plate again
to build a rubber Jesus for that cross.
Put him up there, head lolling in the breeze.
On Ascension Day, they let him fly
two-stepping across rooftops
on his way to an American discovery.
A Michigan hunter bored with ducks
takes his shot just as the crown crests a pine ridge.
The hunter misses, and inflatable Jesus,
borne up by wind, moves
to Chicago through Midwest corn and wheat,
east to New York for Macy's parade.
It is easy enough to see that Dunn is well read and very funny, what sticks as an impression with these poems is Dunn's playful nature while being serious, his dead seriousness with humour. These are strong, strong poems.
In Fancy Clapping, Dunn's second book, things go from very good to better. Gary Barwin's excellent illustration on the cover has exactly the right mixture of humour and gravitas, play and prayer, that Dunn brings to his poetry.
This second volume is full of poems like Let Us Now Invent The Past. This poem is a pistol, all gentle build up and then the hammer at the end. And Resurrection By Garden Trowel, which is hilarious, timely and a small declaration of sorts. What is clear is that Dunn is playful but he isn't playing around. These are serious poems full of punch. Al Purdy would recognize the self taught voice in these poems and approve.
There are a couple of long poems in this collection that could be shorter but that is small complaint next to the glee of the plus column. If his first two books are this good, and they are, number three will be something to see. Mark D. Dunn has announced his presence on the Canadian Literary scene with authority.
(to see more about Fancy Clapping http://www.lpg.ca/CoCoPoPro/