The feel and look of Patrick Woodcock’s latest volume of poetry, You can’t bury them all: aesthetically pleasing. On the cover, the title words are partially eroded or, depending on how one looks at it, uncovered like a body that has been buried in a grave far too shallow. Within the book, Woodcock takes the reader on a journey of stark, uncomfortable and, at times, incomprehensible truths about conflict and the nature of humanity.
These poems are the result of Woodcock’s seven-year immersion in cultures of Azerbaijan, the Kurdish north of Iraq, and, closer to home, Fort Good Hope in the Northwest Territories. Despite the often dire subject matter, the poems sweep the reader along their urgent current, and here and there, through “barley clouds” come rays of, if not hope, then respite or startling wisdom such as the following:
did you know that the last bubble to come
from the drowning
carries a word
and that fish eat these words
that’s why fish are so smart
they carry us within them
By the time the last poem is read, the title seems to change from defiant to hopeful. Yes, you can’t bury them all. Yes, some will live to tell their story.