1822 The mixing of textual & visual
Sixty-Seven Ontological Studies: 49 Poems & 18 Photographs
by Jan Zwicky & Robert V. Moody
Calgary: Freehand Books, 2022
$24.95 / 9781990601095
Reviewed by Ron Dart
Poetry and photography, when at their compressed, suggestive and congealed best, speak a speech that evokes and summons forth depths within the longing soul. Such is the poetry of being and the black-white photographs that compel meditative and lingering moments in Sixty-Seven Ontological Studies: 49 Poems & 18 Photographs. The combination of short, succinct yet poignant poems and clean, simple yet invitational photographs makes this charmer of a missive worthy of multiple reads in which an attentive heeding of mind and imagination are wed for a deeper understanding of the vision of this well crafted book.
I was held, again and again, by the momentum of the poetry as seasonal poems (liturgical cycle of nature) such as “Moon”, “New Year”, “February”, “March”, “Equinox”, “Spring Walk”, “May”, “Spring in the Mountains”, “Harvest”, “Earth Season”, “Autumn”, “Winter” to name but a few of Nature’s inevitable and consistent cycle embrace and welcome questions, queries, longings and reflections of the all too human journey of thought, relationships, a scholarly vocation, scenes and sights of Nature, “Despair”, “Old Books”, “Old Blues”, “Crying” and “Waking”. Many are the other poems that ask of the interested reader a slowing down of life and mind to internalize the message that can only be heeded by a contemplative listener. Many are the books of poetry that I keep near and dear, but high on my list is Eliot’s Four Quartets and many of the poems of Denise Levertov. I felt, when reading the poems of Jan Zwicky, echoes and affinities with aspects of Eliot and Levertov.
The 18 photographs by Robert V. Moody, as mentioned above, compliment and reinforce the poetic insight and wisdom of Jan Zwicky. I sat for hours with each of the photographs, “Table, Chair, Bed”, “Clearing Storm”, “Sakura”, “Lightfall”, “Ice Lake”, “Our Lady Queen of Angels”, “Snow Geese” and “Scholar’s Study” worthy of honouring as icons. The photographic bookends of “Table, Chair, Bed” and “Chair” taken from D.H. Lawrence Ranch took me to two Lawrence memories: the book by Purdy-Beardsley on Lawrence and the superb book on Lawrence by one of my much admired philosophic and deep powder, deep ecology skiers, Delores LaChapelle, D.H.Lawrence: Future Primitive.
Sixty-Seven Ontological Studies has an unique and uncanny way of addressing different faculties of knowing, textual and visual, poetic text itself visual, and photographs alluringly textual—indeed a creative intermingling of needful genres. Ontology in the classical sense threads together the presencing (Logos) of being, or to draw from the well of Shakespeare’s Hamlet “To Be or Not to Be”, the classical tragedy beginning with “Who’s there?” and the reply to the question, “Stand and unfold yourself”. The poetry and photographs of being in this book do ask us to answer the question of who indeed is there and how does the deeper part of ourselves discerningly stand forth and unfold in a full and meaningful manner. In short, this book of 49 poems and 18 photographs is a child of thoughtfully engaged philosophic minds and souls who have, sensitively and vulnerably, honestly and insightfully, via the medium of art, attempted to embody the courage to be in a world that often dwells on mirages and genuflects to sellers of smoke.
I would, without any reservations, highly recommend this invitational book, contemplation and mysticism merging into a vision of the journey to the good, true and beautiful but a word of warning—the book is not about more information and knowledge—it’s much more about markings and road signs, waymarks and portals for the journey into a life of wisdom and insight.
Ron Dart has taught in the Department of Political Science, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley since 1990. He was on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s. He has published 40 books including Erasmus: Wild Bird (Create Space, 2017) and The North American High Tory Tradition (American Anglican Press, 2016). Editor’s note: Ron Dart has recently reviewed books by D.L. (Donna) Stephen, Elizabeth May, Stephen Hui (Destination Hikes), Stephen Hui (105 Hikes), and David Crerar, Harry Crerar, & Bill Maurer for The British Columbia Review. He has also contributed three essays: From Jalna to Timber Baron: Reflections on the life of H.R. MacMillan, Roderick Haig-Brown & Al Purdy, and Save Swiss Edelweiss Village to The BC Review.
The British Columbia Review
Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.
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