LARRY WOIWODE has published two novels, and his third book, Even Tide , is a long series of meditations in verse on a novel implied but not present. The main thrust of the ghostly non-novel does, however, emerge gradually. The story has to do with an intense but troubled marriage; there is apparently a separation along the way and eventual reunion on a higher level of understanding and commitment. It is the chronicle of one "treading the dead line between being loved and cursed."
Much of the book is written in free, rhymeless forms, but occasional rhymes weave in and out, a novelty in contemporary poetry and often surprisingly effective. At times the poet achieves striking effects by stark simplicity:
I've burned up my best words in prose.
And now the night burns down its trees.
Turn back, run, it's all over, unless
You let me
Burn again between your knees.
At other times, the language modulates to a surrealist sensibility:
Carrying torchlight down the axe-handled hall,
Bearing my trophy of remorse,
I creak slow in this dream of dread -
Bloated cattle in the passageway, the ghosts
Of dead beasts at my back
Occasionally, though not often, the intensity of feeling leads to corny language, such as "the hone'lined hive/Of my homebound love, dear. you."
In tandem with the man-woman relation is that of the individual and God. Religious imagery is frequent from the beginning: "A rumbling cross"; "Strung from great Christ's spiked gardenia along/Singing barbed wire"; "The gold round host/In a cold sky." The themes of earthly love and divine love are brought together in one of the final sections with its line, "Love awoke in me and Love awoke ."
Even Tide is the work of a poet whose sense of language is still in process of being honed; he does not always skillfully carry off the abrupts shifts of diction that he attempts shifts of diction that he attempts. It is, however, a book bigger then the sum of its parts. The poet has undertaken a major work, in effect one lone poem, and has come close to success. It will be exciting to watch his further development.