Review by George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald (May 15, 2005)
Zachariah Wells's Unsettled is a terrific extension of the labour poetry of the late Milton Acorn, but it is also remarkable for its concentration on the Arctic, a landscape last given poetic expression by yet another traveller from the south, the late Al Purdy. But Wells's North is one he knows intimately given his employ as an airline freight handler on Baffin and Cornwallis Islands. He compares his wordsmithing to holding up "a chunk of idiom like obsidian" and listening "For the pure animal, trapped,/singing inside it ..." Wells lets the landscape and its people inform his poetry in the same way that the Group of Seven artists took their leads from nature. Thus, Wells recovers the great outdoors style of Peter Trower and dedicates a poem to union leader Buzz Hargrove: "...in this labour brother, I will suffer nothing that won't make me tougher."
Wells conjoins hardy images and tough speech: "Another sh-tfaced saucebagger slogs and staggers/Down the roughantumble hardscrabble hill," until he suffers "A slomo, rigorous fall that ends with a crack,/A sticky brown flow from his crown/And Jill, come astumblin laughter ..."
Wells writes rhyme, sonnets, ghazals, and vers libre, and does it all well. He gives reality its realism. His words are "Ravens wheeling over ... boats, black inkblots on white sky."