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An Excerpt of Tom Wayman's Afterword

A Small House on the Outskirts of Heaven
This collection begins with a section, "Testimonies," that gathers poems based on descriptions by others and myself of facets of our present working lives. One poem here, "A Cursing Poem," was originally part of a manuscript of my poems eventually issued by Macmillan of Canada in 1974. Because Macmillan felt the poem might be libelous, the poem was dropped from the manuscript before publication. The person who is the target of the poem's anger, Gordon Shrum, died in 1985, however. And since the dead cannot be libeled, this is the first chance the poem has had to appear in a collection of mine (although the poem was published in magazines in both the US and England, and I have often performed it at public readings).

The cursing poem is one of a number of intriguing types listed in Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred, an anthology of aboriginal poetries from around the world. But the effectiveness of cursing poetry in our culture - or at least of my attempt at this kind of poem-may be gauged by the fact that although the poem was written in 1971 Shrum did not die until fourteen years later. Indeed, his life in the meantime included such incidents as drinking a beaker of defoliant at a press conference. He did this to refute environmentalists' concern that his company's use of such chemicals on their power line right-of-ways is harmful to the biosphere.

Because the poem was written so long ago, I should comment on the numbers that appear in the poem. At the time the poem was written, the minimum wage was $2 an hour in BC and it cost 25 cents to ride public transit each way. Today the minimum wage is $4.50, two-and-a-quarter times what it was then, but it costs $1.25 to ride the bus - five times the 1971 fare. The reference to temperature being 40 degrees refers to Fahrenheit, which was the scale in use in BC in 1971.

The second section, "Local Traffic," combines poems arising from travel with poems about being at home. The latter include pieces concerned with our-and my-present condition.

"Enigmas," the third section, contains poems that as near as I can tell are about failure (as the first poem in the section suggests). These are the poems I understand least in the collection. The next section, "A Yellow Cottage," is an elegy.

The fifth section, "Defective Parts of Speech," groups poems concerned with the misuse of language in our society. The intense use of language that Welch advocates for poetry unfortunately is also achieved at times by advertisers, the news media, politicians and other authority figures - and not usually for our benefit.

"Lost and Found," the next section, gathers some found poems . . . just for fun. "Greed Suite," the following section, explores a number of ways human lives and the natural environment are affected by the ideology that puts money above all other considerations.

Finally, "Marshall-Wells Illumination" attempts to answer through poetry the question sometimes put to me: why do you choose to write about daily work in poems? Marshall-Wells was a chain of hardware stores in business across Western Canada.