Coming to Jakarta (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Centered on the cover of Coming to Jakarta is a clear oblong photograph of a tranquil lake, probably Lake Massawippi, near the point at which Canada meets Vermont. It was in this area that Peter Dale Scott, born in Montreal, spent his childhood summers. This photograph is superimposed upon three other pictures, so shadowy, dark, and indistinct as to be barely perceptible. These pictures are of uniformed soldiers, most of them Southeast Asians. In a sense, the collage of which this cover is made provides the essence of what Scott writes about in his chilling poem. The levels on which the poem functions are equally present in the photographs on the cover.
Coming to Jakarta consists essentially of tercets, all of them minimally punctuated. Aside from an occasional question mark or apostrophe, the poem runs on for 150 pages absolutely devoid of punctuation. The effect of this technique, surprisingly, is that the poem has remarkable unity. Lines overlap, meaning is enhanced by the overlap, and words—sometimes whole lines—do double or triple duty, as they always must in quality poetry. More complete punctuation than Scott uses would interpose stumbling blocks to the kinds of meaning that he so ably achieves in this intricate and well- controlled piece of writing.
The poem is divided into five sections, two short and three long. Sections 1 and 5 are six and seven pages respectively. The first is used to build background and to...
(The entire section is 1821 words.)
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