Andrew Suknaski Eli Mandel - Essay

Eli Mandel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Suknaski's poem, "West Central Pub",] is about identity, change, process, the poet. And it deploys with beautiful subtlety several prairie motifs: the beer-drinking or wine-drinking philosophers; the beer-parlour as seminar and place of initiation; the poem as parody. But it also locates the poet for us in a striking use of an old image out of Gilbert & Sullivan: a thing of rags and patches, the wandering minstrel, ineffectual lover and singer, prince in disguise. And it's that sense of identity or patchwork, a now patched up of then and no longer the same, that gives Suknaski's work its authenticity. Al Purdy, in his introduction to [Wood Mountain Poems] says rightly, "This book is in no sense a history of the area, although it does deal with Wood Mountain people and history. Nor is it an autobiography of Andy Suknaski, although his own life is both marginally and centrally involved." For Purdy that means the book gives us, as he says, "a clear look at people and places," and exploration of the territory of time, a sense of place unequalled anywhere else, an overriding sense of sadness, and nostalgia and affection as well. Fair enough…. What I hear in Suknaski's work differs from Purdy's version only in emphasis, I think. Purdy chooses the metaphor of territory or place for time, the double sense of time in Suknaski's poems. Place, then, is in Purdy's phrase "Multi dimensional" so that whatever a clear look at place means,...

(The entire section is 433 words.)