Jamie Dopp, The Birdhouse, Or

No, that really is the full title: The Birdhouse, Or. Once you get into the book, though, you discover that the first poem sequence is about the building of a birdhouse, a feat attempted and accomplished by father Jamie and his sons, approved of by Wendy.

And you learn that after the "Or" in that section's title is a seriously impressive subtitle:
He attempts to introduce his sons to the uses of certain tools, and is struck by a number of observations about fatherhood, with three minor miracles and an extended discourse on a significant but rarely considered part of the human body.
This title embodies some of what I enjoyed so much about this book: there's a rare balance here between a sense of awe that threatens to turn maudlin, and a sense of perspective that threatens to turn cynical. Dopp writes with what feels like great openness, tolerating a nurse's remark after the birth of his child that you "can never really be sure" who the father is; describing calmly how he had lime thrown in his eyes, ambushed, by a soccer teammate he called "limey"; dancing naked in front of the TV's election results after driving home, uncertain, from the candidate's office. (Openness, like I said.)

But really, it's about the poetry. My favourite poems here join what I arrogantly confess is the fairly short list of poetry that says what I wish mine did:
Goddamn poets and goddamn poetry
with their promises of a deeper life
getting me drunk and
confused with yearning in
the middle of the afternoon
(on getting home later than promised, after lunching with a visiting poet)
The book reads as a sequence, which is something I delight in, rather than as excerptable single poems and lines. I prefer albums to singles, so this pleases me, but it makes it tough to sell lines....

(The final section didn't work for me, I admit. I'm not one for overly clever stuff, and most of the pieces in this section were "generated through collage techniques" (as the book puts it) from Cleanth Brooks' Well-Wrought Urn, plus some lines from Derrida, a couple of very good Canadian poets, and an article in Star about Sonny Bono's death. Clever, in other words, though appealing in their own way.)

The book fed my continuing interest in generational matters, though, poets and writers coming to terms with fatherhood and sonhood. The Birdhouse, Or would have made it into regular rotation for that alone, even if some of the lines weren't so damned beautiful.


Amy said…
Thoughtful article. Now I want to read this book. I like your description of his work as working on a continuum between maudlin awe and cynical perspective. I took a grad course with Professor Dopp, and he seemed just so balanced.

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