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High Speed Through Shoaling Water

by Tom Wayman

Political proselytizing has been something of a vocation for Calgary-based writer and teacher Tom Wayman since the publication of his first book in 1973. In High Speed Through Shoaling Water, his 17th collection, Wayman cleaves to the purposefully prosy fables, parables, and lyrics that have been his trademark. But just because something’s deliberate doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. By availing himself of so few of language and poetry’s manifold resources, Wayman leaves the reader with little more than his persona. If you like the Wayman persona, dig in: at 160 pages, there’s lots here. But if you’re otherwise inclined, as I am, the book palls quickly and ages instantly. Wayman is an advocate of collective action, but the overwhelming presence in this book is the poet’s own ego. And while, as a unionized labourer myself, I’m tempted to identify with his politics, I’m also somewhat embarrassed by their boiled-down simplicity. One senses that, as with Walsh, these pieces have more charm when performed by their author.