Whitsel, Tim. “Wish Meal” Airlie Press, 2016.
“Wish Meal” poetically follows a man’s evolution from El Dorado pilgrim and prodigal son to a stay-at-home father to the family he that he has created in the Pacific Northwest. Whitsel shares events, places, good times and bad times.
There is a sense of desperation in the poetry here but it is desperation with a sense of hope. Whitsel writes that when things are bad, he has the desire to make things good and that there is hope to repair what is broken in life. Looking at physical location and time, the poet is on a pilgrimage where anything can happen and does. This is Whitsel’s memoir poetically presented and we are taken back in time to Whitsel’s youth and easier times and move forward toward both introspection and retrospection. There is music here and it is in the background of every poem as we read of a poet who is trying to find his way through the mysteries of life. We become aware of the sensuality of time as each moment holds something special. As James Joyce says in the first sentence of his short story, “Eveline”, “everything changes” and changes affects everyone differently. As Whitsel tries to find “the way”, we see that dogma that was once so important disappears as we move from childhood in Indiana to adulthood in Oregon.
We go into the metaphysics of life— not just Whitsel’s but our own. We search with him for the meaning of life and see what being human is all about. Here is the arc of life geographically rendered and as generations meld, brokenness is mended and a full person emerges and it is this brokenness that allows this to happen, lyrically and beautifully. The poems are divided into four sections— “Wishmeal”, “On the Banks of the Wabash”, “Ferment” and “Furrow and Drift, with each representing a different period in the poet’s life. I purposely did not give lines from the poems because I felt that taking them out of context would not show the lyricism and cadence of the writing and this is something that each reader should discover for him/herself.