Guest Poetry Blog # 12 – Pamela Porter Features Canadian Poet Wendy Donawa – Part Two of Two

Canadian poet Wendy Donawa. Photo Credit: from her website.

(To see Part One of Pamela Porter’s two-part guest blog post please click here.)



Wendy Donawa is a force. Her voice ranges from the tongue-in-cheek to calls for justice, to the careful attention required to describe two hawks mating high in the air. She recognizes the heart-stopping beauty of it all:

Kettle of Hawks

Hawks choose open fields, desert, the plunge and rend of prey,
though they can lie anywhere, even this canyon of condos.

I looked up from my book as hi lit on the balcony,
arm-length away. His yellow glare seized me.
what threw his flight path awry?

What of me did his vision inhale?
Detector of ultra-violet, of magnetic fields,
his fovea enlarge focus fourfold,
what poem might I write with his arsenal?

Perhaps he saw a poor bland creature,
mole-blind, without the four receptors
bringing him hues beyond our spectrum.
We don’t even have a word for them.

Perhaps his augmented focus on my jugular vein,
it’s blood-throb, evinced a brief interest.

My slow finger kept its place in the book
as he dismissed the mammal in its glass cage,
returned to kinetic memories, his kettle of hawks
wheeling and swirling on the thermals
circling up and up when mating
until they latch and free fall.

Who would not choose such ecstasy?

Wendy Donawa from our bodies’ unanswered questions, Frontenac House, 2021

Wendy Donawa has a prolific vocabulary. Words I haven’t heard in general speech
in decades. Words I have only read in much older editions of hardcover books, some of which I had to look up in the dictionary. But her vocabulary — the music of those words and phrases, lends authenticity to her work. She comes by it naturally. It’s who she is.

Donawa’s droll way of speaking lends weight to the everyday tragedies we read about in the news, hear in passing on the radio and let it all go by. But her way of grabbing our attention is to downplay it into something that is too often dismissible:

We were good citizens, did not hoard toilet paper,
phoned friends for virtual happy hour, poured wine,
heard voices of exhausted Spanish doctors
explaining triage means deciding who will die.
We said, Well, there will always be war,
epidemics, famine. Such a pity.

We did not say,
How, in our plenty, to ensure enough for all?

Wendy Donoawa from Journal of the Plague Year, Redux (1), from our bodies’ unanswered questions, ibid

This is the way Donawa makes you pay attention: through the dismissive voice. And the effectiveness of her purposefully dismissive voice underscores the utter seriousness of her lines.

Donawa’s poems are not all focused on the injustices we too often tend to let slip by. In fact, she has a very tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. Take, for instance, these stand-out stanzas I have taken from her poem, A Curse on the Greeting Card Dynasty.

Stanza One

May you have to live your own words.
May cards arrive, trite and twee, toxic with platitudes.
May they diminish you.

Stanza Four

When you commit yourself to lifelong love to the depth and breadth and
height/your soul can reach, may the marzipan sweetness of the Ken and Barbie
dolls on your wedding cake send you into diabetic stupors.

Stanza Eight

May you receive increasingly jokey birthday cards
hinting hilariously at dementia, incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Stanza Eleven and Twelve

As you stare at the ceiling in the darkness, thinking there must be
more than this, may a Disney puppy card slide under the door to say —

I know you’ll get through this just fine.

Wendy Donawa, ibid

Perhaps the poem which briefly and clearly sums up her vision is this poem:

Bringing You News of the Day (2)

And when sun riffles the blinds
stripes our eyelids to wakefulness
we open the day slowly
delay it with coffee
forage for marmalade
rattle the newspaper wide so
truncheons and caged children
tumble into our laps.

Wendy Donawa, ibid

Donawa carefully creates her lines, her choice of words, to underscore
the absolute necessity that we take her words with the utter gravity
with which she lays them onto the page. May we listen, and not dismiss them.

—Pamela Porter, April, 2023


  1. Wendy Donawa
    Posted April 24, 2023 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Pam, for this lovely sentient reading of my poems.
    I’ve long been an admirer of your work, so it is a particular gift to know you have selected mine.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted April 24, 2023 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Wendy: So well deserved. Your inclusion in Recovering Words has been long overdue. So grateful to Pam for making it happen. And grateful to your couregeous voice and presence.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *