Radio Weather. Shoshanna Wingate. Signal Editions. Vehicule Press. Montreal, Quebec. 2014.
Radio Weather by Shoshanna Wingate is no stroll through the park. Her clear thinking and plain speaking heart take us through some dark territory.
The poem "Radio Weather" is a fine introduction to Wingate's verse. In it she tells us that "Our stories, though, tell us who we are."
When there should be snow there is rain, rain, rain,
then ice, then rain. The radio hosts asks
call-in listeners if they think this a sign
of climate change. Old timers hit speed dial,
side-step the point, eager to talk storms,
lives marked by weather, recall jumping out
of windows when the doors were blocked with snow,
the hospitals filled up with broken backs--
What does it mean? The questions gather. Oh,
I have another story, a good one.
This storm flooded the town then froze it in
its shell; each home a snow globe of its own.
That one felled trees older than most houses;
rain pummeled us for days until the roads
gave way, just buckled, the ground beneath us
heaved and upended, water everywhere
devouring the road as if it were a sandcastle;
took bridges too, whole town unglued, adrift,
now islands of their own. Weather serves up
memory better than any book.
Who likes to think about means and ends,
how things change so slowly until they snap?
We fear our maps outdated, pencil sketches
on onion skin. Our stories, though,
tell us who we are.
Wingate introduces us to a narrative that includes draft-dodgers, Vietnam veterans, and a father who is a counsellor for these men.
The concerns of these soldiers is addressed in the section of the book titled "Letter From Vietnam" which is assembled from actual letters sent to her father. The sparse haunting reality of the poems reminds us fully of the huge costs of war. The terrible umbrella of emotional destruction it pounds out on families, the personal fear and anguish of so many young men forced to arms.
Wingate strikes exactly the right chords of understanding and disbelief.
The Poet's Devil
We all have romantic ideas of our lives, you know.
That's how we get dressed in the mornings and leave
the house. Otherwise we'd never shave or bother
with silverware. Have you forgotten the art
of seduction, miss? I'm only a figment, yet look
at how I've handled my lot.
I brought down Kings. I had mothers burned
in front of their children.
You hear what I'm saying, don't you.
Implication. Suggestion. Don't be a dolt.
Words are power. You're thinking too hard
on all this, my ducky. You're still
going to die. And since you don't believe in an
afterlife, you'd better write your goddamn heart out.
I like clarity in poetry, I like to know where the poet is going and why. Shoshanna Wingate is aces.
She tells you, poetically, everything you need to know.
Thankfully Radio Weather is not all grim memory and lost causes. Wingate celebrates life's small moments of joy, as should we all.
New Year's Day
Others speak. They call for time
to come meet them. We do not
speak. We rest. We look
for nothing and do not stretch
to find ourselves different
in the new year. We lie together
under wool blankets, the baby kicks
my back, pads my shoulder
with her fingers, roots for what is hidden
until she cries herself awake.
I lift my shirt, eyes closed, and offer her
my breast as she squirms into me.
Me leg moves sidesways to find
his warm leg. We three know ourselves
together in sleep, content in
knowing what we'll find when we awake.
ABOUT THE AUTHORShoshanna Wingate’s poetry and fiction have been published in The New Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, and Arc Poetry Magazine. A poetry chapbook, Homing Instinct, appeared from Frog Hollow Press in 2012. Founding editor of the arts & culture journal, Riddle Fence, she lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“Clear-eyed, musical, deeply-considered and deeply-felt, Radio Weather contends with the inhospitable. Bringing both child and adult perspectives to bear, it calls to account both the living and the dead. Brilliantly-crafted and wise, occupying a provisional space that is both wary and compassionate, somewhere ‘between what we didn’t want and what we could afford,’ these are poems of great psychological tension, poems for grown ups.”
—Patrick Warner, author of Perfection