Her poem “The Boat” reminds me of Wistawa Szymborska’s “Funeral” (II) in which Szymborska simply lists the comments of people attending a funeral. I can’t help smiling at the end. How pragmatic but vulnerable we are around death. In “The Boat”, Dalton describes the broken boat that sails down from the heavens and lands in a bed of petunias, and then she lists the people trying to use or make sense of the miraculous boat. In the “ballyhoo” at the end, as the people are arguing among themselves, the boat simply takes off into the blue again, “battered planks clanking.” It’s a noisier, more colourful poem, but I hear a similar vulnerability and pragmatism in response to mystery. Dalton makes me laugh here, as she often does in her poems.
Some of these poems echo the colour and vigour of my mother’s Newfoundland childhood; she is 86, and those memories are vivid, sometimes more real than present time. Dalton often writes about people who simply work with what they’ve got. Her poems embrace strangeness and are full of words that fill our mouths with sound. Spantickles, rigamarole, devil-ma-click. Her book Merrybegot has been on my shelf for years, but now I’ve ordered Red Ledger. Thank you, Mary Dalton.
Lynn Davies is the poet of three books, most recently How the Gods Pour Tea (Goose Lane, 2013). She lives in Fredericton.