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  • By Benjamin Preston
    Feb 22, 2011
    Waking Dreams is the latest collection of poems from exiled Zimbabwean writer Bart Wolffe. Wolffe is a prolific and talented but little-known author of both poetry and prose. Much of his recent writing has been characterised by themes of displacement and alienation, often exploring the more downbeat aspects of human experience since his enforced move from Africa to the south-east of England. In Waking Dreams Wolffe attempts to move away from these subjects, embracing the positive and the surreal in an imaginative reworking of his poetic style. Wolffe calls poetry 'the process of dreaming in words' and true to this these poems are often dreamlike, sometimes works of pure imagination but more often showing us the unreal in the real, presenting whimsical and sometimes magical observances of life in Surrey. In Catching the Late Night Bus a commonplace journey is transformed into a ghostly sea voyage through 'shoals of cars that pass with a wet hush'. The Spiders, 'Acrobats,... More > astronauts,/Invaders of the Ethernet,/Veterans of the etceteras.' show us the wonder of a suburban garden while in Snowfall in Surrey a tree becomes 'A crystal chandelier upended,/Frost-flaked with filigree and tracery'. There are affirmations of the brighter side of life of here, often seen through an effort to reveal the miraculous in the everyday. The internet makes distant friends 'less than a few inches away/Across the continents/In what we share and say' while a girl in the office is addressed as 'Pale bird with your exotic song'. Despite this, within the dream, there are sometimes glimpses of the nightmarish. In the parallel reality of Post Mortem a corpse is exhumed where the 'heart is just not there'. The Kill takes us to a place where the predator is 'Waiting for too frail hope/To fail/And for life's final fall'. This tinge of blackness gives an added dimension to Wolffe's swirl of imagery. In contrast to these flights of the imagination there are sometimes hints of the writer's time-worn themes. Witness shows us a lonely place where 'Like shop walls, I become stone./I sit alone. - Quiet my song.' There is the occasional refrain of longing for a past in another place. What is sometimes maudlin in this poet's work comes across best when it is blended with an edge of surrealism – 'The barmaid's mute smile said hello,/The beer glass filled, began to flow/And I subsided as darkness swallowed' or with an ironic wit. Africa is sometimes revisited and painted in a golden and fearsome palette. Wolffe's writing has always been ornate, full of wordplay and a collision of images with a rhetorical force. Most of the poems here are in free verse with the occasional more formalised use of rhyme. This style of writing suits the subject matter dealt with and at his best Wolffe takes the reader on a moving ride through thought and emotion. The words are worked with considerable power and skill and this poetic fire is allowed to take flight in the more surreal and abstract sections of this book. Whether celebrating the beauty in the ordinary or being swept away by longing there is an undercurrent of sadness in all Wolffe's work, and caught up in a whirl of dreamlike language this can make for a heady blend. The dream will 'Unwind once again in the first falling splash/And the plunge of the promise find and refresh/Or be spun on forever into wind-blown ash'.< Less
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Product Details

First Printing
August 16, 2011
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
0.47 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6.14 wide x 9.21 tall
Product ID
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