Monday, April 16, 2007

Reader's Diary #254- John B. Lee: These Are The Days Of Dogs and Horses (FINISHED)

Towards the end of this book I had a nasty little thought that I couldn't shake; John B. Lee is like Al Purdy without the wit.

It's a nasty thought, not because it isn't true to some extent, but because it sounds like an insult. It is not. Anyone following my blog on a regular basis could tell you, I'm a big fan of Al Purdy, so to draw any comparison to him is a complement.

Lee's poetry, like Purdy's, is rich in vivid imagery and often could be described as narrative poetry, almost flash fiction at times. I did find myself questioning the number of similes he used, not because they weren't beautiful, creative or apt comparisons, but because sometimes I thought a metaphor would have been at least as effective. Usually I concluded that his choice was random.

There were a few poems, for instance"The Doorbell is Connected To The Dog", in which Lee did demonstrate his wit, and at these times I was almost convinced Purdy had left some unpublished poems behind on bench in a park near Lee's house. Unfortunately, Lee seemed to reserve most of his wit for the more trivial of his poems, yet those which dealt (more obviously) with humanity were more sombre and humourless (but at least still acute and well written). Purdy I think, was more of a risk taker who understood that profound observations could still lie beneath a wry joke.

The title of the collection I also thought was a great choice. Not only is it the title of one of the poems within, and not only do many of the poems deal with dogs and horses, I also think they are good symbols for humanity as Lee seems to express us. Often he explores our good and bad side, the sometimes dangerous, rough around the edges side (dogs) and the more refined, powerful side (horses), but never lets us forget that for better or worse, we have been domesticated by time, and in some form or another, we are at our master's mercy (be it God, fate, genes, or circumstance).


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Al Purdy without the wit does sound like a bit of a left-handed compliment, until I remember what an enormous Al Purdy fan you are.

John Mutford said...

I knew it sounded that way, yet when it sunk in, it wouldn't leave me. It was just so very Purdyesque, I suppose.