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With Nothing But a Nod, Poems by Donald Wheelock
Donald Wheelock’s poems are reflective formal structures depicting landscapes, familiar experiences and everyday encounters from the vantage point of an older man. Fanciful observations of the workings of the natural world rub up against memories of problematic human interaction. Words and music mingle here.
“These quiet, observant, meditative poems communicate with the reader as with an old acquaintance who will listen and can be trusted, whether the theme of the moment is his family member’s lab report and the moving rush of anxiety that closes the poem, or his own nagging regret over an inconsiderate remark made to a friend in haste. The collection as a whole breathes concern for the living, whether it's a mouse that must be released from a merciful trap out into deep snow, an infant in Afghanistan facing death on a newscast, or King Lear finally acknowledging—and regretting—his foolishness. Details are noted with such genuine attention that the reader is carried to the scene and rendered a witness.
Memory, the passage of time, the seasonal changes that each year rehearse our own aging, the natural gifts and losses of our lives, are themes so beautifully presented that the reader recognizes and responds to them, like news from an old friend who soon becomes unfailing good company. To know what I mean, spend an evening of slow, detailed reading with these two: ‘No Matter the Event’ and ‘Sunset, Looking East.’ You'll be glad you did.”—Rhina P. Espaillat
“I can best describe Donald Wheelock’s second poetry collection, With Nothing but a Nod, as wisdom transmuted into words. Wheelock distills experiences into reflections that, as Pope says, give ‘us back the image of our mind’; his poems tend to echo our own ideas—expressed in surprising metaphors. In my favorite example, the title poem fuses thought and lyricism in hard-to-forget terms:
. . . as if a death
had waited with the patience of a god,
who, never having need of human breath,
could let us go with nothing but a nod.”—Deborah Warren
“Donald Wheelock’s poems have the habit of inspecting themselves almost as soon as they begin. ‘Between the Lines’ kicks off this way: ‘The meaning always lurks between the lines/ waiting there, to be heard and understood/ as something you intended anyway.’ In
‘The Title,’ an opening line wittily examines that title by calling it ‘a plagiarist/ with no thoughts of its own.’ These are poems full of both teasing and serious intentions toward their reader. Invariably they produce ‘wry formulations dead ahead’ (‘The Title’) that challenge formulation and make for energetic, humorous effects.”—William H. Pritchard