It’s natural that a self-confessed fan of Jacobean poetry would also be a fan of traditional poetic forms and it also felt natural for the first section of the book to be about a lost love. The test was whether the rhymes intruded or supported the poems or whether natural word orders were distorted to accommodate rhymes. Although not all the poems rely on end of line rhymes. From the poem that gives the collection its title, “This Heritage of Ice and Autumn Glass”, the landscape is Canadian,
“I could show you moonlight in the wind
When cold star crystals leap above the snow.
And even as the autumn leaves reflect
The lava flows of sunset, new leaves burn
Red as marsh lights, for a single noon
Before the green appears. The moon, you see,
That egg within a shattered nest of mist?
The heron striding on its own reflection?
The raisin-scented torches of the sumac
That draw the chickadees in hornet crowds?
This heritage of ice and autumn glass
Is all I have to offer…”
It’s the detail that stops this becoming a cliched list of nature’s bounty. It was good to see a proper abcedary in “Xylotomous Xenogenesis” that didn’t skip over ‘x’. It ends:
“Unless unfeeling logic take the wheel,
Veer vehemently ’round and quit the course,
Would we see an end to my surreal
— Yes, yell it! — carving efforts to create,
Zig zag fashion, works that captivate?”
There may be a nod to Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”in the fourth line of the quote, but I think too, a recognition that a story’s parent – the author – has little control of how readers see the offspring once the story’s out in public. The reference to “carving” in the fifth line supports the use of “xylotomous” in the preceding line, giving it a coherence suggesting it was more than just an interesting word plucked from the dictionary to fit the demands of an abecdary form.
The mood lightens after the opening section and writing about a writer’s life is looked at with humour. In “Dreamed in a Colder Bed”
“‘Your story does not suit our present needs.’
And I agree, it cannot suit the times;
For it was crystallized in colder climes,
Dreamed in a colder bed that supersedes
The warmth and welcome that your office heeds
As bait for any buyer. Let the chimes
Ring out for those who match the paradigms
Which I cannot encompass. (He concedes.)
For I would be the first one to declare:
I have no fond connection to this age.”
Performance nerves, anyone? In “Could Someone Else Read This For Me?”
“That weak and ragged instrument, my voice,
Detuned by all my decades and the dust
Puffed away from paperbacks, now thrust
Into the public ear by desperate choice,
Would make the least articulate rejoice:
For I could never wave or smile, and trust
My spoken word to charm, or waken lust:
My talking never rolls, and has no royce.”
And a dash of wonder at “Those Who Persist”
“Those who persist under punches of rejection,
Who can take every slap as a cue for resurrection
In writing or in love, in craftsmanship or dreams,
I always wonder
You can rise from the mire of your own incomprehension
And go back to your chair despite all of the dissension
That denies what you whisper in your modulated screams.
I need your guidance
Perhaps it’s natural that other writer would warm to the final sections in the collection, but Mark Fuller Dillon’s poems pass the test in that the use of traditional forms feels natural and, where rhyming schemes are used, they don’t intrude on the poems. The collection shows a love of words and a range of tones, craft and a dash of self-deprecating humour.