Miriam Waddington Tom Wayman - Essay

Tom Wayman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I think most of Miriam Waddington's poems in her recent collection of new and selected poems, Driving Home, are boring. But as this collection spans thirty years of work, boredom here is perhaps not entirely her fault: the worst poems reflect the fashions of times they were written in. It is difficult not to be bored with intricate little home-made myths and texts designed to fill up with sentiment the empty prairies or an empty life. And it is difficult now not to be bored with the careful encapsulating into rhyme of the passions and anguish of a social worker in the 40's and 50's, and of the lives of those she was in contact with.

But I wonder if Waddington doesn't share these views. The best of the poems in Driving Home are mostly in the section of new poems (since 1969). Here she is able sometimes to get inside her present life and show it to the reader in a convincing way. (p. 85)

Some hint of the powerful poems Waddington might have written out of her social work in clinics, jails and as a welfare official can be seen in "Investigator" (1942) where she captures for a moment something of the inside of the homes and lives of the poor…. But too often the emotion is lost in the prison of rhyme…. This poem clunks along to the stunning insight of:

I haven't heard much that was new to me
or brought any word that was new to you;
it seems our separate selves must curve
wide from the central pulsing nerve
which ought to unite us, you and me…

Waddington's poems such as this one fail to let any particular emotion break out, to transcend the confines of rhyme in any way so that the poem is more than reporting in verse. Or maybe there was no further emotion? (p. 86)

My lack of complete belief in what Waddington is saying appears even in the new poems of this collection. Something is missing, for me, in a poem like "Transformations" when she says she wants to spend her life in Gimli listening to the silence…. Similarly, in "Dead lakes":

I look down
...

(The entire section is 925 words.)