Face to Face with the Invisible — reviewed by Luci Shaw
The following review of my poetry collection Poiema (Wipf & Stock)is from a longer article by Luci Shaw from Radix Magazine (Vol. 35 No. 2) ©2010.
Another poet with Canada in his bones is D.S. Martin. In his recently published Poiema, Martin does what the title suggests. He makes of his life and its encounters with people and places, with its victories and vetoes, a poetry that invites repeated viewing by readers who appreciate an entry to the inner life of the poet. Just as the poet himself is a “made” individual, a creation from the hand of God, so that poet is called to make, to craft, shape and present images for us to make what we will of them.
This kind of making calls for meticulous choice of word and phrase and line break. Don Martin doesn’t punctuate his verses with commas, periods, and dashes, but uses carefully placed spaces between certain words or phrases. Though sometimes I wonder if the poem would work just as well without those little ellipses, this stylistic technique does keep the poetry from seeming too facile, too easy.
The brief pauses in ideas and images function for me like little “Selahs”. That term in the Biblical psalms has been variously translated, but in essence the reader is asked to “Take a moment, weigh this thought, this music, carefully.” When we read such poetry, we do it in a measure mode, allowing the poet to urge the writing along in an episodic way. Martin’s is a quiet voice, not given to vociferation. The poems build by stages. The time we give to them is rewarded.
A poem about Adam and Eve investigates their relationship from the hints supplied in Genesis: Adam didn’t consider “how Eve might feel/ when he’d chosen to not/ take another walk with her through the garden/ leaving her to encounter the serpent alone.” Cain is seen as having “the second finest garden to date/ in the history of humankind…Cain had sacrificed/ from the fruit of the vine./ Abel had always said that that was like offering/ the wool without the sheep.” (Here I’ve supplied the punctuation.)
Martin writes about topics as diverse as Glen Gould’s piano, Tom Thomson’s painting Northern River, Durer’s woodcuts. His eye is acute, his reach is wide and deep, showing his mastery of poetic forms — sonnet, ghazal, villanelle, canticle, haiku. He has a blog displaying the work of a number of what he calls “Kingdom Poets” of which he is himself a fine exemplar.
As with all good poetry, there’s a rich reward for those who read his writing slowly, allowing it to unfold its magic bit by bit. Martin is a poet to be watched, as his body of work grows.
The other three poetry collections reviewed in the article are:
Paper House by Jean Janzen (Good Books)
New Tracks, Night Falling by Jeanne Murray Walker (Eerdmans)
Rough Cradle by Betsy Sholl (Alice James Books)