by Phil Hall
AFTER 20 YEARS of poetry, Tom Wayman is a man who can title the introduction to Did I Miss Anything? (Harbour, 200 pages, $14.95 paper), his selected poems from 1973 to 1993, "Glad I Was Born." Incredible.
This is actually Wayman`s third Selected. In 1980, the Ontario Review Press, with Introducing Tom Wayman, presented a selection of his work intended for an American audience; and in 198 1, Thistledown published The Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, which gathered the early Wayman-persona poems.
Did I Miss Anything? won`t be the definitive Selected, either. Sure, I will soon be tearing this book apart and sending pages by mail or showing them to students, as I have done with other Wayman books. But I have quibbles about the skimpiness of the selection. For example, where is the long poem "The Face of Jack Munro"? If such a political poem is scuttled, anchored to its history, surely we do the long memory a disservice. I would also quibble about the title. And there is no other word for the cover except -- dorky!
None of which matters much, really, considering the importance of Wayman`s work. After all, here is a poet who has an actual readership, hard-won and extending beyond just a group of his peers. What we really need is a book that would include both poems and essays. Wayman`s arguments for "an adult literature" are sane and bracing, his poems are irreverently humane, and his political morality is irrefutable, if dogged. A nuts-and-bolts Tolstoy, Wayman is one of our most fully realized, pioneering talents.