REVIEWS OF PETER DALE SCOTT'S POETRY IN GENERAL

Poeta Doctus [Bryan Sentes], January 4, 2011, http://bryansentes.wordpress.coe: "But what stood out for me were the four sections excerpted from Scott's forthcoming Minding the Darkness (2000). Here was a poetry prima facie reminiscent of the late tercets of William Carlos Williams, but whose nearly prosaic plainness was underwritten by a complex, suggestive syntax ("language escaping / the rules of syntax // and prosody and aesthetics" as the poem itself put it, in the best reflexive, "postmodern" manner) whose difficulty, tracing the imaginative, emotional and intellectual struggle with what Dante called mala condotta, evil governance, and its relation to tradition and imagination, I found bracing, both in its challenge and its sincerity ("technique is the test of sincerity," Pound observed). As well, the poem employed that Modernist and most modern of techniques, what is loosely termed "intertextuality", deftly weaving in italicized passages from a veritable library of culturally and historically global sources, emphasizing, with a humble honesty, the way every voice, especially a written, poetic one, is a polyphony of many voices. But what I found most compelling was how the poetry engaged the political and social world, in a way the best canonical poetry does (think of Dante, Wordsworth, Shelley, Whitman, Yeats) and the way the writing most important to me did, that of Pound, Ginsberg, and William Burroughs, learnedly and in specific, concrete luminous detail. At the time, Spoken Word poets ranted and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets wrestled with Capitalism in the arena of the Sign, but here was an engagement grounded in facts, yet everywhere acutely, and sometimes painfully, aware of its own contingency...."

MOSAIC ORPHEUS: REVIEWS

John Peck, "Seeing Things as They Are," Notre Dame Review 31, Winter/Spring 2011, 239-52: "....He must be the only poet now writing who can say that Czeslaw Milosz, peace-studies scholar Ola Tunander, various prominent vipassana teachers, and certain unnamed informants in government service deceased in mysterious circumstances, equally have nourished his effort. This span, together with an iron stomach for the forensics and catharsis of difficult findings, spell his personal equation. His poetics therefore will likely be neither a standard Orphic affair nor a canonical Buddhist one, although the poetry plainly arises in order to square those canons, and that personal equation, with a civics obdurately impersonal and malign ....l

Andrew Vaisius (Prairie Fire, October 2010): Peter Dale Scott combines his politics with his poetics, and we are richer for it. The poems are deceptively simple. One run-through is generally enough to crack their intention and meaning, but their brilliance comes after several readings. I travel past the obvious to the subtle interconnectivity of things in Scott"s world, while he travels as a senior citizen through the world with his sensitivity and wisdom up front:

the darkness deep inside us
should be like the jungle in Thailand

where we may acknowledge the presence
of unseen pythons and kraits

but our actual sensations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

are of lazy butterflies
and flowering lianas) (166-7)

Scott writes as a Buddhist and a lover, world-weary but totally engaged and undefeated. "What is life? This unpredictable, this surprise/ That liberates us. . . . / I'm seventy-four. Anything can happen." (95) Those are words to live by, as is the implication of this statement: "What matters most is unrecorded" (176). Scott pushes us along in his search for truths rather than the truth, through Thailand, Berkeley CA, the Eastern Townships of Quebec -- wherever he is witness, however is his being.

Alan Williamson, "Meditations on Activism," Tikkun, May-June 2010, 66-67, http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/may2010williamson: As he becomes increasingly disillusioned about the possibilities of institutional politics, he is more and more drawn toward religion and (in "Secular Prayer" and some of his recent prose) toward faith-based utopian hopes. In this, as he well knows, he resembles some of the great ancestors he often invokes -- the Dante of Paradiso, Milton, Pound. Scott's religion is of a peculiarly attractive kind, rooted in Buddhist meditation but reaching out empathetically toward his wife's Judaism, his childhood Christianity, and Islam. I suspect many readers of Tikkun, like me, will be delighted to encounter it, after the militant secularism that afflicted the Left during the Bush years. Whether or not we believe it can transform politics, it certainly cannot hurt our political behavior. Scott's lovely poems about meditation ("Breathing Exercise" and "Commuting to the Land of Medicine Buddha") are also important, it seems to me, because they take American Buddhist poetry a step beyond the earlier, Gary Snyder tradition, in concentrating less on moments of enlightenment than on the troubled Western ego struggling, breath by breath, with distraction and psychological fears. Finally, I wouldn't want to leave this book without noting that some of the best poems, from a purely lyrical point of view, are the more personal ones, that don't try to transcend the facts of aging and loss. "Pelican" is a small masterpiece....

J.A. Weingarten, Matrix: "The true strength of Scott's collection.... is the way in which he transcends the subjective world he constructs for himself and engages (through extreme intertextuality....) with the world at large....Scott provides what is indeed a mosaic and uses this foundation to develop a vivid and often Buddhist philosophy toward the political disasters of our shattered present….Indeed, his poems are artfully broken bridges between the past and the present, all of which illuminate both the difficulties of and the desire for worldly and emotional order. In his undertaking, Scott contrasts his somberness with stirring charisma, rendering a world that is at once personal and far-reaching, a mosaic that is, as Scott says of history, perpetually `loveable.'"

Fraser Sutherland, "Between the political yang and the spiritual yin," Globe and Mail [Toronto], April 13, 2009: : As much as one welcomes substantive political poetry that is not mere attitudinizing, the personal, recollective, almost conversational poems make the most impact. The charming, wryly humorous The Power of Prayer concerns his Uncle Arthur....Russia, China, Latin America, the Middle East, all the disunited nations, are present if not altogether accounted for, because Scott is ever mindful of the thick fog of political circumstances in which we dwell. Thailand, with its past deforestation and present-day drug trafficking, looms especially large with its blend of the tragic internal displacements of its population and the upward trajectory of its economy....For someone who has been so involved in public forums, the heir of public men, this is one way to come to peace with his solitary self."

James Reid, "Mosaic Orpheus," Off the Shelf, September-October, 2009, p.6: "Mosaic Orpheus opens with the memories in `Seven Canadian Poems,' the first of which was so utterly Canadian in the gentle unwinding of its humour that I found myself laughing out loud. Then I tried to remember the last time I laughed out loud while reading a poem. It's been a while.... `The Tao of 9/11'[:] This remarkable poem is the book's sustained and ruthless centrepiece.... A few pages after the conclusion of this dark poem, Scott reminds us of Dante's and Milton's wager on how to live, `that to live in hope/ we must let go of our torments.' In the face of looming torments, letting go and choosing to do what we do best, may be best."