Echo Gods and Silent Mountains, Patrick Woodcock, 104 pgs, ECW Press, ecwpress.com, $18.95
This is Toronto poet and former editor of The Literary Review of Canada Patrick Woodcock’s eighth poetry collection.
Woodcock spent two years in Iraq, and the poems in this collection emerged in the form of a “poetic journal,” featuring lyric
reflections on the land, culture and history of the Kurdish people he met there. This is the first of three books written during his
time in the Middle East. Echo Gods and Silent Mountains is divided into four sections: “Echo Gods” makes up the bulk of the book, and is comprised of individual poems depicting a variety of experiences.
“Silent Mountains” is a prose poem, while “Sardasht Osmand Is Not Dead” is a long poem about the student journalist murdered in 2010. The final section “Farhang: An Introduction” consists of a single poem which will lead into his next book, also called Farhang. The book opens with an epilogue, which sets the mood for the rest of the work. The piece shares birthdates that are not recorded with accuracy, and a common one is chosen to be representative of the whole. This is a world in which details are malleable.
More than a passing thought is given to the “strange tombstones” these characters leave behind.In “The Irrigation Pond,” one of the more haunting poems in this collection, Woodcock describes the pond as remembering “…another / time: when flames were for warmth / and children didn’t have to run from their light.”
A number of poems focus on specific people: Sherwan Fatah, an artist who works with oil and blood; Mariama, a woman raped and discarded; Mama Najat, the owner of a teashop who has taken it upon himself to look after men who have gone mad. Others have no names, such as the eight-year-old boy in “Zakho Bridge,” encouraged to jump without a thought to consequences, because “…It’s the act / they celebrate, not the outcome.”
Woodcock’s evocative poetry offers a glimpse into people engaged in the process of rebuilding themselves, and the conflicts that inevitably arise. This is an excellent collection, and I look forward to reading the next two books as they’re published.