Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Happened - Tom Walmsley

Today's book of poetry:  What Happened.  Tom Walmsley.  Book Thug.  Toronto, Ontario.  2007.

If there is a poet in Canada willing to put more on the table than Tom Walmsley I'd sure like to read them.

I don't love each and every Walmsley poem, no one is that good.  But I do marvel when he tosses off a gem like this:

i know you feel so deeply you
can barely exist in this terrible
world & i drive you crazy with
my head in the sand i won't trust
the news i don't need to know 6
people killed in arkansas from a
collision with a truck full of beets you
rhyme off the crimes of humanity &
you are right you are I
always say so you are right
but here's something

when the pizza is 5 minutes late
pay the guy anyway & tip the waitress
even if she doesn't grovel in the
way you require just try it
& really who gives anything like a
fuck when the garbage men took & what
they didn't stop weeping for 2
minutes a day you don't have to dig so
far up your ass to find your soul
leave your deep sorrows take a
breath & try being shallow.


This may be my new favourite poem, my new mantra for life.

With the poem Kid Stuff, Walmsley pulls off a very interesting trick.

danny tucker wore a
leather jacket & motorcycle
boots & carried a
stolen shotgun walking
across the trestle on
a saturday afternoon

we heard the train saw
the smoke & danny kept
walking & the train rolled
around the bend blowing
a high shriek & charged
the trestle they were
face to face  danny &
the engine & he walked no
faster & the train kept
rolling & just when
we were ready to
he reached the end &
stepped to one side
& the train seized the spot
a second later

danny tucker raised his
shotgun & blasted a boxcar point
blank & walked into
the trees never looking back

it was oshawa in 1958 &
i was standing in
the creek next to
jimmy catching crayfish &
suddenly everything in my
life was kid stuff.


The trick is that there is a movie inside that short poem.  Plain language, no big words - but an entire panoramic, a movie where the narrator comes of age, there is action, tension, drama,  mystery, crayfish.

In the long poem Little Honey Walmsley gives us a treatise on sexuality, gender, desire and power.  Once again, Walmsley is braver than most.  His candid voice is unadorned and fearless.

Tom Walmsley is another much overlooked poet.  When he is in the mood his language is a crisp and clear as a laser and baptized water.  Perhaps it is the dark undercurrent that runs through much of what Walmsley writes, for me, it is the light he shines onto the rest of the world that I find so invigorating.

"we want to act with love &
  we don't want to get caught"
                                       From the poem SIN

Walmsley tells us all about it.


  1. Reading Concerned after reading the excerpt of a David Foster Wallace speech on Boingboing earlier this morning makes me think the universe is trying to tell me something.

    1. It's a killer poem isn't it. I kind of felt the same way when I read it the first time. Very good at helping to create perspective.


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