Going to the Eyestone


96 pages
ISBN 0-919897-83-5
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Beryl Baigent

Beryl Baigent is a poet; her published collections include Absorbing the
Dark, Hiraeth: In Search of Celtic Origins, Triptych: Virgins, Victims,
Votives, and Mystic Animals.


Deidre Dwyer’s previous book, The Breath That Lightens the Body, took
the reader on a journey to Asian climes. In this, her second volume of
poems, she explores her native province, Nova Scotia, through a
collection of narrative-style poems about family and acquaintances.

The book flaunts its Celtic connection with a cover design of knot work
depicting the web of the universe. This symbol acknowledges that one
exists before time and throughout time. It also complements Dwyer’s
use of the eyestone mythology and the quotations from Down North: The
Book of Cape Breton’s Magazine with which she opens each of the
book’s three sections. According to the cover note, “When the first
Highland settlers came to Cape Breton, they brought the eyestone with
them. It was passed along from father to son. The eyestone is alive and
has to eat.”

In the first section, “Splinters,” the quotation from Down North
notes, “There was a man who wanted to say how awful a certain woman
was, so he said of her she was so mean she wouldn’t feed the
eyestone.” Poems here are filled with details of children “who
brought milk to school in Mason jars, / brought lobster sandwiches for
lunch / and were ashamed.” We see, hear, and smell incidents such as
the Halifax explosion in 1917.

The second section, titled “The Going,” features poems about the
unknown—“dreams of leaving town” landscapes that are “collages /
we paste together with luck,” and “the Iceman crawling, / at the
crest of a mountain pass.” In the third section, “The Eyestone,”
we expect resolution in this place where “the world / is a mermaid
who’s not afraid” and “you can hear yourself / growing.” Now the
poet sees herself in a mirror that “reflect[s] / the wealth of the
world,” and in “books that fit / the palm of our hands.”

Dwyer understands the perplexities of life and is not afraid to face up
to them or to make them into metaphors. Even in this home landscape, she
knows that “Nothing is perfect” and that all she can do is “jump
from rock / to rock, find a footing [and] balance.” The arrangement of
these poems teases the reader along a path of discovery. We heal
ourselves by believing. We are our own eyestone.



Dwyer, Deidre., “Going to the Eyestone,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17785.