The Yellowknifer, Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Review by John Mutford
Zachariah Wells, the poet behind the fantastic Unsettled, a collection of poems
inspired by his cargo-handling days in Iqaluit, has returned with Jailbreaks: 99
This latest project, however, contains none of Wells' own work. As an anthology
featuring many of Canada's best known poets (ex. Leonard Cohen and Charles G.D.
Roberts) alongside lesser recognized poets (ex. George Whipple and Evie Christie),
the only regrettable omission is from Wells himself, who has certainly earned his
rank amongst these poets but seems to have succumbed to a professional humility
and did not include a sonnet of his own. Not that Wells doesn't leave his mark.
From a thorough introduction that discusses the relevance of the sonnet despite
the liberties that have been taken with its form, to the notes found at the back
of the book, there are many moments to pause and reflect on the poems, aided by
However, his best skill as an anthologist was the arrangement. Most often such
collections are arranged alphabetically or chronologically but Wells has made it
a work of art. Finding common themes and images between poems and placing them
adjacent to one another created chains and discourses that wouldn't have existed
in an arbitrary arrangement. Poems with rope imagery, for instance, are found
together, encouraging meditation on its significance as a symbol. Maybe too many
focused on the sonnet as a theme, but this may have been Wells' enthusiasm for
the form-and that enthusiasm became infectious.