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Poetry General

A Dark Boat

by (author) Patrick Friesen

Anvil Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2012
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2012
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 15
  • Grade: 10


'A Dark Boat', a new collection of poetry by Patrick Friesen, is heavily influenced by 'cante jondo' (Spanish "deep song", or flamenco) and 'fado' (Portuguese songs of longing). Friesen approaches music as a method of weaving his poems with both Spanish and Portuguese aspects of longing, imagistic leaps, and darkness.

The poems in 'A Dark Boat' try to shake hands with darkness; the kind of darkness that is rich and necessary for a full human life, the darkness of soil into which seeds drop and grow, the darkness of the grave into which the body is lowered. They explore the kind of loneliness and yearning that is contained in the Portuguese word 'saudad:' a longing for something in the past that can never be found because time has shifted everything away from what it was.

Although musically aware and inspired, Friesen's poems do not delve too deeply into the metaphorical; rather, they thrive on an allusive and suggestive level that makes room for jarring non sequiturs andvibrant images. These elusive and emotional poems say much, while telling as little as possible.

"...His (Friesen's) sensitivity as an artist affects all his work in a profound and beautiful way. ...Friesen writes about a world that is "quiet" but teeming with emotion; this world is alive and "writhing" with lust, obsession, inspiration, suffering, and yearning. ...There is a musicality to Friesen's writing, a lyricism indicative of what the Spanish term "Deep Song", a more somber stream of flamenco music. There are constant references to fado music, pianos, horns and Tom Waits, as Friesen probes the universality of music. ...The poems are not frivolous but neither are they suppressive or overwrought by the darkness. Instead, the themes are the undiluted musings of an adult, contemplative, full of yearning and with an awareness of death. Friesen is preoccupied with dancing, the motion of feet and legs. In his poems everything from walking and drunken stumbles, as well as the movementof dance, is associated with lust, struggle and resistance. This becomes the perfect backdrop for historically rich poems about Lorca. ..." - Vancouver Weekly

"...If you've never heard fado music, you should. It is an intense, raw, emotional music which Patrick compared to the Delta blues, another passion of his. Or you could just read this book, which is imbued with his reminiscences of his trip and the music of fado. ...lines that punch you in the gut, leaving you breathless. ..." - PrairieFire

About the author

Patrick Friesen is the author of Blasphemer's Wheel, winner of the Manitoba Book of the Year Award and runner-up for the Milton Acorn People's Poetry Award. A Broken Bowl was short-listed for the Governor General's Award. His most recent work st. mary at main was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. He has also written for stage, radio, TV and film. He lives in Vancouver where he teaches writing.

Patrick Friesen's newest collection Carrying the Shadow is a haunting ode to the lives we have felt too briefly, known only in passing and yearn to hold still. While those who loved them keen softly between his lines, Friesen invokes their loss as one remembers a cool breath on the back of the neck, a faint shadow on a headstone, a watermark on the bedstand. With wisdom and beauty and invention, Friesen walks us through the graveyard of human kind where a symphony of voices still conduct the lives left behind long after they depart flesh for spirit. Intermingling prose poems and traditional free verse, Friesen both narrates and sings the stories of absence and forgetting, tales of lingering memory and fleeting love. With infinite candor and sensitivity, Friesen celebrates the lives of idols and iconoclasts, wives and widows, farmers and freeloaders. For anyone who has urged another title in the canon of Friesen's award-winning work, here is a collection worthy of accolade. Death has no dominion, but poetry has dominion over all.

Patrick Friesen's profile page

Librarian Reviews

A Dark Boat

The poet revisits a specific time (the Spanish Civil war in the time of the execution of the poet Lorca) and place (contemporary Spain) and uses language to recreate the somber tone and discordant images of a Spain of beauty and brutality. The poems are instructive explorations and demonstrations of the effective uses of form for young writers through the use of lineation and enjambment, almost no punctuation or capitals, and diction.

The poems also demonstrate the value of reading aloud and how it enhances understanding and the sorrowful mood of the poems. Includes a glossary of Spanish and Portuguese terms.

a dark boat was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award and won the BC Book Prizes, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the P.K. Page Founder’s Award.

Caution: Includes some explicit sexual language.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2012-2013.

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