1. Review by Alan Twiggs
Theresa J. Wolfwood of Hornby Island and Victoria is the director of the Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation, a non-profit society founded in 1996 to encourage programs that promote social justice, peace, sustainability, diversity and community through research, writing, film and art. When she is not organizing events or programs to generate global awareness, Theresa Wolfwood writes poetry that frequently expresses her humanitarian concerns, often generated by her travels. A baker in El Salvador confronts a mining company. A child in Gaza recounts Palestinian war. She muses on Pablo Neruda; she visits Chiapas. Hope vanquishes despair, and love frequently intercedes: “your back a mahogany guitar/ emerging from its case.”
A passing girl in a bikini, with butterscotch skin, honey hair and “breasts seal-slick” strolls past a silent protest of women dressed in black to combat nuclear bomb testing. She is innocently licking an ice cream cone, oblivious. “I see the palette of your glowing skin / the poison plumes begin to develop / shadows and fissures emerge your skin sears / you become a map of Bikini Atoll / two bombs on cities and twenty-two / nuclear bomb tests later.”
Alan Twiggs is editor of BC BookWorld, a musician and author of seventeen books, including histories of Belize and Cuba. Most recently he edited Undaunted, an anthology to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary ofB.C. BookWorld,
2. Review by Betty Kituyi
Theresa Wolfwood writes delicate poems tackling crucial dilemmas of our times. Her poetry is an unheard expression of a world that is threatened by war and consumerism culture. The poems gently point at what is urgent and is being forgotten – a pointer for what the modern world should grasp. The poems are a voice for the poor and the vulnerable – human beings living at war front lines; ecological systems vanishing in the guise of modernity. The poems are sometimes prophetic, implying that we have to change our way of being or we perish. One not only gets a glimpse on what is beautiful but also what is ugly in our time.
“Jesus in the Parking Lot” begins with the word – ‘Just’, chosen, it appears to carry a strong emotion the poet has experienced every time she encounters one a million strip malls. By that word ‘just’, the reader senses revulsion for these places – some kind of dislike. The reader’s suspicion is met in the next lines of the poem as the poet uncovers what isn’t there in the yard of the mall that should be there, ‘ trees, planters filled with geraniums’ or ‘lobelia’ instead of slab of wavy pavements. Layer after layer of direct and indirect images are vividly described and sometimes strongly laid, ‘boxes with empty eyes’. The reader senses another discomfort when the poet takes note of ‘surveillance cameras’ and ‘a gunsmith with double doors’; this not a secure space for people to visit.
The poem takes a dramatic turn when she responds to the words in the bumper sticker “America – ‘Love it or Leave it’ as ‘I tried to leave’”, in the second stanza. This is the point in a poem when what you are waiting to happen, happens. The poet was all along looking for a way out. She needed a sign and she got it. But she will not leave without telling us what exactly she wanted to do in this place; “to photograph the store front in the middle with yard high neon letters ‘The Alliance Church of Jesus Christ the King’”.
One wonders whether it was indeed a mistake for her to stop to capture the neon letters, ‘…Jesus Christ the King’, when she is waved down by a poor man with a puppy asking for a ride out of the place. The way the poet takes in the man and the dog – delivers us at a point of satisfaction in the poem – meeting someone living in this space and the relationship between the poor man and the dog, his best friend. One cannot help noticing the deep respect the dog has for his master in its droop beside him; the not trying to look…this respectful loving relationship sharply contrasts with the encounter with humans that the man describes. He is fleeing the cops who want to arrest him for asking for change and has been rejected from the church because he is too dirty to come in. The poet shows sensitivity for some, including, “one old woman whispered she’d pray for me”.
There is breath-taking wisdom and soul reflection in the last line, “Jesus doesn’t live here anymore”’. One cannot help thinking that the man could indeed have been Jesus and brings us to the poet’s recognition and reverence for the poor and the marginalized that is so delicately expressed in the last two stanzas.
In all her poems, Wolfwood creates a landscape of a world that seems to live big but seems near, a world that seems to offer false comforts as the real values from history, culture and religion are considered things of the past. Her poetry has a line, a phrase, a caution, a dance, a play, a story, a reminder, a friend, a celebration, a substantial something, to grasp, to hold to ruminate over for everyone. In these poems there is something to learn, something to relish and something to reflect about the human condition in our time and our connectedness.
These poems are for everyone from the smallest corners of the globe to those at the centre of modernity. They are poems you can read on the street, on the farm, at a death bed, on vacation, on a war front, in a classroom, or in a political office. This is the kind of book that should be read at rallies – political, religious and social, but most of all in classrooms to imbue that sensitivity to the young on what is important, to raise their consciousness on what it means to be human in a world that is threatened by war, propaganda and globalisation.
Betty Kituyi is a Ugandan writer, science communicator, researcher and teacher. Her work has been published in in journals and anthologies. She is a winner of the 2012 BN Poetry Award.
3. Review by Chris Pengally
Theresa Wolfwood is an activist, writer, and director of the Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation, a non-profit society, based in Victoria, Canada, founded in 1996 to encourage programs that promote social justice, peace, sustainability, diversity and community through research, writing, film and art.
Her poetry gives creative expression to the struggles for social, political and economic justice and combine love, passion, aesthetics & beauty whether describing a homeless man, or a tribute to the women brutally murdered in Central America, or her bold commentary on life in the Middle East.
I first heard her poetry at a reading she gave on Hornby Island, British Columbia while on holiday with my family of two young sons. Her poem, ‘Jesus in the Parking Lot’ …it is a critique on the hypocrisy of organized religion and homelessness, “…they said I was too dirty to pray with them/ get a job or get a life/ join the army / be a soldier for Jesus in Iraq.” I loved it and so did my sons. Poet W. Szymborska once wrote, “the most pressing questions are the naïve ones.” My boys replied, when asked which was their favourite poem of the reading…Jesus in the Parking Lot – why didn’t the church people help the man? The poem still resonates with them.
Equally, her tributes to her muse and lover are poignant and engaging. “…now I inhale only you/ and the fresh-picked sweet peas/ close by the bed/away from the camphor chest/where foxes and siblings/ are lost in odourless dust.” Beautiful words that are a timeless homage to the sweeter feelings of long-term attachment, honesty, commitment, and emotional intimacy.
Theresa Wolf wood’s poetry examines the details and occasions of everyday life all over the world where her activity has taken her – Central America, Middle East, Africa. Her poetry about friends, alive and departed, shows that her personal struggles equal the political struggles she has when visiting these places.
This book is more than a collection of poetry – it is an autobiography of her life with her partner, her activism, and her daily life in Victoria and Hornby Island. Her poems on everyday life, such as ‘The Poet in the Post Office’ are her homage to the woman who was the hub of a small but active community. ‘ She weighs in grams the records/of this small community/exchanges smiles for stamps/ fills up slots with the weight of/worries and limbs of trees…’
I have known Theresa for a long time, and she has been equal parts teacher, friend & conscience to me. I owe her my gratitude to supporting my love of making preserves and other food, and to appreciate the stunning objects people have contributed to the arts & craft scene. I am reminded of this daily when I see her gift of a Middle Eastern embroidered cushion on my sofa.
It is available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/wolfwood and available to purchase in the UK at Housman’s Books, London and RISC World Shop, Reading.
If you’re in Canada, the book is available at Ivy´s Bookshop, Victoria, BC, Volume One Bookstore, Duncan, BC Beit Zatoun Shop, Toronto, Ontario, and Arbutus Arts, Hornby Island, BC.
Chris Pengally is an arts coordinator and historian in England
4. Review by Sumeet Grover in Huffington Post UK
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sumeet-grover/theresa-wolfwood-love-and-resistance-review_b_7003180.html 8 April 2015 Huffpost UK Entertainment Book Review: Love and Resistance by Theresa Wolfwood The poems by Theresa Wolfwood in Love and Resistance (ISBN 9780993031502) are an historic contribution to our art of poetry, which is denied a place in the mainstream discourse on human conflicts, social justice, poverty and the bombing of civilians globally in the name of national security. I first read her poem, For Shaima, few years ago; it was written for an Iraqi girl whom Wolfwood met in 2001 in Baghdad. Her verses have since remained in my memory for their humanism, fragile emotions and the blunt admission of the illegal Iraq war that was executed under global daylight; she writes… did my letter arrive / before the missiles? / did any plane carry a harmless cargo… only if / hope the letter comes / before the bombs… Wolfwood’s words create for the reader what I imagine to be the inner state from which she would have written those poems: a suspension of the outside world; a penetrating insight into the loving as well as destructive human nature; the untold reality of people’s lives in India, El Salvador, Palestine, Mexico, Nicaragua, Uganda, Lebanon, Chile and the First Nations people of Canada. Many of her poems are character sketches of people living on the front lines of a reality, which is not only different from what consumerism and globalisation have created for us in the West, but one that refuses to yield its cultural identity; one that is determined to preserve traditions; and one that is fighting to protect the local ecology as our beloved commodity producers, and colonisers continue to destroy their environment for increased financial profits. In City Night, the gravity of her words pulls our hands so we walk with her in deep sleep and dream about the native Canadian women committing suicide on a highway… when I sleep my dreams have voices / Star and banjo sing her / song about the lost women on / the north’s highway of tears… In The Arpilleristas, she writes about Chilean women whose husbands and sons were abducted by the Pinochet regime, as they decided to stitch artworks to send their stories to the world… They open their veins to find thread to sew reality… On the other hand, her poems for Palestine draw from first hand experience of being tear-gassed in the territory whilst carrying out peace work… spring is a foreign country in Palestine where / grieving women go mad for the longing / of blossoms / their throats stopped with stones…