There is a pilgrimage of sorts in Young Dawkins’ writing of these poems and it is evident in reception of them as audience in both hearing them read by the poet and in reading them from the page. That the poems are biographical there is little doubt.
Restlessness is arrested over and over by the poet’s recognition of ‘isness’ in the circumstances from which each poem has its evocation, ‘saying it as it goes’ as Robert Creeley once said, culminating in a collection that is ever-looking through one situation to the next.
The place Young Dawkins is in search is not defined geographically, although it ultimately manifest itself so, but in the ‘Slow Walk Home’ to himself and where his ‘heart finds rest’, to quote Robert Duncan.
He is witness to and speaks out of moments of disconnection as in the poem ‘Radio’ where he finds himself astronaut-like, searching for attachment through tenuous radio messages.
Sometimes late at night
I play with my radio,
trying to tune in the dead.
A nine-band Panasonic,
ears on the world,
AM, FM and Shortwave.
I believe this is how
those gone will reach me,
Old friends will find me,
maybe my mother;
I keep my radio on.
There is no piteousness in the poem. It’s a situation in which the poet finds himself on repeated occasions – his radio tweaking another endeavour, not only in his search for home but in discovering a definition of home – the last line a disclosure of his openness.
Poems in this collection often lay bare unhappiness as contributory to life as much as pleasure and cameo them in close association.
In many of the poems, there is deceptively delivered lightness yet one that remains reverential to the seriousness of a circumstance – in style, more caring than laconic.
Friendships / relationships are key to this collection.
Dawkins picks up the importance of his male bonding in poems ‘Going Up’ and ‘Fishing With The Dead’, both concerning his buddy, Billy Hoops; Billy signposted again in the poem ‘Letters’, in which Billy is an agent of unification in Dawkins’ lapsed friendship with Malcolm. Billy is there in ‘Sporting Life’ and ‘The Secret To Trout’ – an outdoorsman, a rugged friend, home-spun philosopher and an indelible character.
Elsewhere are poems reflecting the poet’s concern with family, writing colleagues, journalists – he spent many years and travels being a journalist before engagement in academic life as a university lecturer.
The influence of Beat poets is well-drawn but subtly so: Kerouac and Ginsberg are written-in, as is jazz.
Dawkins’ is a seasoned performer of poems to music, notably jazz, and it is the gentle swing of language and phrasing that is at the very heart of his poetry: it is profoundly musical.
In the elegantly anecdotal poem, ‘Billy Collins And My Lousy Poetry Career’, Dawkins relates a reading with the one-time USA Poet Laureate -there is a murmur of likeness in both the styles of Dawkins and Collins. Certainly both advocate and write poetry that ‘often has two subjects, the starting subject and then the discovered subject’ (Collins) and both often write private poetry they want the public to read.
Young Dawkins has lived in many places in USA but later in life found employment and
‘a home’ in Scotland, establishing himself there for several years. It was also there he met his wife and wholeness to that he had sought for many years.
However, that was not to be the end of the story to ‘Slow Walk Home’. He now lives in Hobart with his wife and son where the final poem in the collection places every important piece in its place.
Young Dawkins’ imperative is met and it’s here in this generous collection of poems.
By way of friends and relationships he has navigated to a geographical and spiritual place and condition he can finally say is home.
Ric Hool May 20th 2021