I became an instant fan of D.A. Lockhart’s poetry after reading 2019’s Devil in the Woods, a collection of “letters” addressed to famous Canadians such as Don Cherry, Lord Beaverbrook and Bruno Gerussi, to name a few. It was shortlisted for Best Poetry in 2020. Now with Tùkhòne, he combines haiku and haibun to create some of the most evocative prose and poetry I have read in some time.
“Tùkhòne” refers to the present geographical area of Windsor, Ontario and Detroit Michigan and the book pays homage not only to the cities but, as the author mentions in the Introduction, “to what could be seen as a more environmentally aware moment and motion in North American poetry.” As such, Mr. Lockhart’s poems include not only city-scenes but nature as it exists within and without the urban areas. (More about this in a moment)
The collection is divided into two halves, the first being Ntakiyëmëna (“Our Land”) which includes thirteen haikus that pertain to the thirteen full moons in the Lenape calendar. The second half, Kityènay Asuwakàna (“City Songs”) uses the haibun form of combining prose and haiku to bring consideration to the music that has been written by area musicians. Think Bob Seger, Glenn Frey and the MC5, for instance. Let’s take a look at a representative sample from each section.
Mëxate Kishux (Deep Snow Moon)
Four railcars parked
on dead-end track. Faded mural
mirrors dirty snow.
Over grey mounds,
sultry scraped snow,
rat drags Timbit box.
River ice reflects Detroit.
Gull pivots between borders
cries into bitter air.
Beneath black oaks,
elderberries dance atop
snow. Western breath.
Through fogged window
indigo surges around OPEN
sign. Man carves shawarma.
Cattails upright before
cold front, man spreads
salt on bare road.
Sky blue cut ice
glistens above cloud
bank of fresh snow.
Against paper cup
sweet muddy coffee burns
fingers. Week begins.
Mëxate Kishux is the first of the thirteen “moons” and it sets the tone for the other twelve: a mixture of city and nature (“River ice reflects Detroit/Gull pivots between borders”), textures, smells and tastes: a rat drags a Timbit box, a man carves shawarma, and hot coffee in a paper cup, and even the environment: “bitter air” “sky blue cut ice” and “fresh snow” evokes feelings and memories we all have of winter in the big city. (And if you’ve never lived in a big city like Windsor/Detroit, take my word for it, these images are all very real). On to the haibun section.
At Rest We Witness the Transit of Others
after Glenn Frey’s “Take it Easy”
Upon Woodward shores we gaze outward to the current. In this act, know our default is to rest our gaze upon traffic. It is the central act of creation we can call the act of our muscle ancestry. Legends worth recounting are of those that have visited the crossroads, become endowed with malevolent raw medicine those endow. Yet, around me are the women, children, and men that eschewed such gifts in life, pushed a city into the woods, the emptiness beyond the lights of cities. Here traffic is the bird song, with its angry poorly attached mufflers, sequin paint jobs, too loud placement of pop songs. Don't even try to understand. Just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy. From lawn chairs, the ten-lane avenue before us a creek bed in full flash flood bore. On this sliver of grass easement between that current and the furniture store parking lot behind us. the scent of hotdog burnt offerings waiting up to the heavens above, and above it the melody of a hundred thousand road trips. And I sing out, words formed from muscle memory, don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. Southward, Chrysler playing Bentley sings deep bass, rims spin northward.
Here, where there were once woods (and now only “slivers of grass”) and the current of the river, our gaze is now turned inward, towards the current of traffic on the ten-lane avenue with its birdsong of city noise. Don’t try to understand, don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. Magical stuff. Lyrics that are familiar to many of us, used to make sense of Tùkhòne, now a colonized, unceded territory where nature once ruled and Grandmother moon marked the seasons and watched over her people.
D.A. Lockhart returns with another reflective collection of very original poems written through the lens of one who knows the cities/territory of which he writes but has not forgotten what should have been before contact occurred. Recommended!
Although the title of this book suggests sadness and shadows, it also raises awareness and hope. Here to convey the losses and changes of Tùkhòne area, Lockhart applies Japanese lyric forms with his ancestral moon movements and his lost dialect.– Anna Yin author of Nightlights, inaugural Poet Laureate of Mississauga
About the Author: D.A. Lockhart is the author of seven books, including Devil in the Woods (Brick Books 2019) and Breaking Right (Porcupine’s Quill 2020). His work has appeared in Best Canadian Poetry in English 2019, TriQuarterly, ARC Poetry Magazine, Grain, Belt, and the Malahat Review among many. He is a Turtle Clan member of Eelünaapéewi Lahkéewiit (Lenape), a registered member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation, and currently resides at the south shore of Waawiiyaatanong (Windsor, ON-Detroit, MI). His work has been generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. He is the publisher at Urban Farmhouse Press and poetry editor for the Windsor Review.
- Tùkhòne: Where the River Narrows and Shores Bend
- Paperback: 60 pages
- ISBN-13: 978-0887536151
- ISBN-10: 0887536158
- Publisher: Black Moss Press (Sept. 16 2020)
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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.