You can’t bury them all: Poems by Patrick Woodcock is a collection of geographic and cultural poetry. I will admit that I did not look at the author or his biography before I started reading the other day. The book I had intended to read was corrupted and I grabbed this because it was next on my reader. I started to read and was immediately captured by the sense of realism. I was reading about Kurdistan in a way that Mahmoud Darwish writes about Palestine. The people, cultural, and mannerisms all rang true to my experience in the Middle East in the 1980s. My thoughts were to recommend this collection to a friend in Saudi Arabia who supplies me with poets to read.
Suddenly everything changed. Now the poet is in the frigid Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories. The setting is Fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie River were today in mid-March the temperature is -6 F. I am thinking is this the poet’s emigration? From the barren sand to the barren snow? No, this person lives and lived here most his life. He writes the elders and tells the stories of the land.
I decide to look up the poet’s biography and find it onwww.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca:
“Woodcock has spent much of his life as an expatriate, rarely remaining in one locale for an extended period. He has worked as a professor of literature in Ibagué, Colombia, and has lived in countries including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bosnia and Russia. In Canada, he has served as the poetry editor for the Literary Review of Canada, and has taught at SHERIDAN COLLEGE in Oakville, Ont. He currently lives in Iraq.”
Woodcock is a traveler and, more importantly, an observer of other cultures. If a reader picks up any of these three sections, the third being Azerbaijan, he or she would be hard-pressed to realize that the author is not a life long resident of that region. It is difficult to capture one’s own culture in poetry but to capture three so perfectly is amazing. I read the first section with the total conviction I was reading a Kurdish poet. The poems are in an open, narrative form and use enough devices to make the reader think they are listening to a storyteller repeating the stories he has heard.
You can’t bury them all: Poems is a rare collection that will surprise the reader with a story he thinks was authentic and personal. Even the poems on Azerbaijan, once I realized who the poet was, seemed both realistic and first-hand accounts of someone who lived through the Soviet period, recalling the past as well as describing the present. This is the magic that poetry hopes to obtain — To take the reader to a place and visit the historical and personal aspects of events, people, and culture and not realizing the poet is creating everything. A true virtual reality.