EILEEN TABIOS Engages
Pantoums by Dennis Daly
(Dos Madres Press, Loveland, OH, 2018)
It can be difficult—at least for me—to poeticize the effects of war. I didn’t expect a reminder from Dennis Daly’s Pantoums that constraint-based writing is one way to unfetter (paradoxically, as constraints often do) imagination so that the poet can address a difficult matter.
Pantoums, as its title suggests, consists of poems all in the form of pantoum—“a poetic form derived from the ‘pantum,’ a Malay verse form: specifically from the pantun berkait, a series of interwoven quatrains.” Reading through the perfectly fine manifestations in the first section entitled “Harmonies” did not prepare me for the fresh applications of the form in the second section entitled “Memento Mori.” Specifically, the poems “Guest,” “Chatkal Mountains Ubzekistan,” and “Mazar Hotel.” The poems approach content effectively by approaching it slant with the help of the form. Here’s “Chatkal Mountains Uzbekistan” in its entirety:
For me, the existence of “child soldiers” has always been a source of immense grief—their existence conflates so many elements that’s wrong with the world and its policies and politicians (including warlords). Of course, I should remind you of Ishmael Beah’s memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier—a book, and a story, that should never have existed. Anyway, Daly’s delicate approach, combined with the nod to the nature that war destroys, leaves an effect that resonates long past the dying of bombast.
Other wars are referenced. The poem “At Gettysburg” offers another layer of poignancy for not dealing directly with the brutal battles but the war monuments that exist today in reference to that warfare. The last line relates to wider human history and not just Gettysburg as it briefly but powerfully states:
Calculations of glory rest here.
Given so much that’s wrong with today’s world—as Daly puts it in another poem, “Citizens”,
“Man loves malignity”
—Daly’s Pantoums has caused me to pause and consider the form as a means to engage with humanity's multi-layered problems that’s often caused me to remain speechless. For that effect, I am grateful to the poet.
Recommended for its nuanced approach and deft use of an ancient form.
Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea Resurrects (GR). She loves books and has released over 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her 2018 poetry collections include HIRAETH: Tercets From the Last Archipelago, MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION: A Poetry Generator, and TANKA: Vol. 1. She is the inventor of the poetry form “hay(na)ku” which will be the focus of a 15-year anniversary celebration at the San Francisco Public Library in 2018. More information is available at http://eileenrtabios.com.