Friday, November 12, 2010

Review of A NORTH ATLANTIC WALL BY Donald Wellman

Review of A NORTH ATLANTIC WALL BY Donald Wellman, Dos Madres Press, Inc., PO Box 294, Loveland, Ohio 45140, 95 pages, 2010

By Barbara Bialick

This book-length literary journey would appeal to those who like medieval travel mixed with travel in the present, but largely through intellectual allusions, history, and what the author called “transhistory.” I didn’t notice any particular poems that would stand out distinctly without their book, yet it is interesting reading and written smoothly. As literary analyst Don Byrd notes on the back cover, “Don Wellman maps a remarkable geography. The deeper interest of this poetry, however, belongs to places that are not on the map.”

There is a literal map at the beginning of the journey.—the Spanish Kingdoms, 1210.
There are also some notes in the back, should you want to study more closely all the allusions and opinions. But the author observes on page 39, “The canon urged the poet to wed fabulous lies with the understanding of the readers so as to facilitate impossibilities and join admiration with delight. Does this justify Quixote or make transparent an underlying purpose?”

An example of the metaphorical travelogue reads, p.46, “From the stone bed of San Guillarmo, draw an east west line/the sacred stones lead to the summit on a north south axis/and all of this at the time when a pagan queen ruled the/headlands and the Milky Way was thought to be the celestial colure…”

But the present intrudes into the intellectual fantasy, on p. 47: “Later the poets discussed roof construction after/the Arabic fashion…Families arrived in black Mercedes to visit the spa…”

The quote that most interested me was his philosophical idea about God, page 74:
“So I say, as it is impossible that what has happened has never happened, and so it is impossible too that what will happen shall not happen. And above all, in God, who understands and knows from the beginning what has to happen, even before it comes to be, so it was and is then without a doubt necessary that the future has been completely determined in his thought already, given that he knew and understood always, what causes are necessary for the consummation of what has to happen.”

Donald Wellman lives in Weare, New Hampshire and has written two other books of poetry. For many years, he edited O.ARS, a series of anthologies about post-modern poetics. He has been a translator in several languages.

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