Helpless Angels weaves several themes together: music’s impact on a life, expressed through memory; poems that are like songs; music found in or described through nature; poems that directly consider music’s power; and, as a counterpoint to how music carries us through life, how art — and each of us — deals with significant loss: the death of a loved one. Helpless Angels looks at a long-term development — the ubiquitousness of widespread personal access to music performed by others that began in the 1950s and has continued to expand ever since. The collection explores via the medium closest to music, poetry, and a number of the delightful or at least positive dimensions to this enormous change in the fabric of people’s everyday lives.
All people have incorporated music into their lives individually as well as socially as when they gather for celebrations like weddings, birthdays, and church service or when they gather at funerals, or to send off soldiers to war. There is little that music doesn’t touch. In the written arts, poetry, of course, has long been the source for song and its intricate structures have been the layman’s access to the complexities of rhythm and meter. The connections between poetry and music run deep and offer engaging opportunities for readers.
Wayman’s Helpless Angels also reminds us that many of us are from the generations that have been able to listen, anyplace and anytime, to our own choice of music performed by others. Thus, we are the first human beings who have been continually surrounded by music made by others all our lives. How this change has impacted us is a major focus of this book.
Tom Wayman has published more than twenty poetry collections, three essay collections, two short story collections, a collection of novellas, and a novel. He has also edited six poetry anthologies. He has been Writer-in-Residence at the universities of Windsor, Alberta, Simon Fraser, Winnipeg, and Toronto. He is a co-founder of two BC alternative post-secondary ventures: the Vancouver Centre of the Kootenay School of Writing (1984-87) and the writing department of Nelson’s Kootenay School of the Arts (1991-2002). He is currently a director of the Calgary Spoken Word Festival Society and of Nelson’s Kootenay Literary Society, where he serves on the education committee and the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival organizing committee. Wayman lives in Winlaw, BC.
“Tom Wayman is the rare poet who has the ability to put our lives into verse in a way that helps us see ourselves and others with greater compassion and clarity, and while he does tread the poet’s usual turf—“love, nature, death” as he describes it—he finds poetry in the everyday, and particularly in our daily work. This is a remarkable collection of poems by a poet whose work is not just compelling because of the sweep and power of his language, but because of his insight into the joys, realities and challenges of being human.” — Don Sawyer, review of Built to Take It (2014), Industrial Worker Oct. 2014
“Always the poems are permeated by intense attention to justice or a sense of justice. Tom Wayman seems to say, ‘Yes, I care about who gets shafted and why, and through these poems I will make you care too.”
— Micheline Maylor, review of The Order in Which We Do Things (2014), Alberta Views June 2014
“As to be expected from a poet rooted in the political ethos of the underdog, this book is refreshingly short on angst and long on social interaction, political agitation, sensuality, lost love and utopian dreams. Passionate and lyrical by turns, didactic at others, insisting that ideals matter, that people must strive for more empathy and honesty, Wayman demands much of his readers. He leaves us, as always, with a fire in the belly and a smile on our lips.” — Sid Marty, review of Winter’s Skin (2013), Alberta Views September 2015
“Wayman uses words and images—the craft of twentieth century poetry—to cut through the steel irony and stylishness of these times and quietly expose the machinery that encloses and constrains us. Wayman’s strategy has always been to include himself at the heart of any critique. This strategy insures that the poems do not perform as rants; they are never simply prescriptive; they are always inclusive, open and self-questioning. The voice that delivers this material is a smooth, accessible voice that Wayman has grown into over such a long, rich career. Like a seasoned jazz saxophone player, Wayman leans back into the music he is creating because he has paid his dues: he has reached that point of grace in improvisation, a poise that takes years to acquire.” — John Lent, review of Dirty Snow (2012), Arc Poetry Magazine May 2013
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