Touching Ecuador

W.H. New - Bio and Media
pb / 2006-03 / Poetry /
9780889822238 / 80pp / $16.95

Touching Ecuador is a long poem in four voices, following the interconnected observations of a modern-day tourist-traveller, a struggling castaway, a disillusioned preacher, and an Everyman weaver who tries to come to terms with mountain histories and a mountain home. Everywhere these four observers find a landscape rich in words: guidebooks and notebooks, calendars and woven letters, alphabets and beaded rituals, children's verses and the stories that populate place. Through their experience they move past security into the blessing of contradiction, finding at last "the breath to live by, /glimpses of connection . . . /the ambiguities of liberty."

touch the unreal, upset
the alphabet
of ordinary,

imagine Ecuador

Those who reach the peaks and shores of Ecuador, who watch and listen, will never again be the same. Some will rediscover what it means to be alive; some will try not to leave; none will ever forget; all will change. Perhaps it is the overlap of tropic sun and alpine snow; perhaps the nearness of Darwin's finches and the gilded saints. Perhaps the colour: flamingos against the bleak black of lava. Perhaps the contrast: Andean hummingbirds amongst the flowers, and overhead the frigate birds scavenging. Fact and myth, baroque and plain, stone and garden, politics and habits of belief that sometimes challenge, and are sometimes confirmed. The appeal of romance, unrealistic or not. The wings and claws of feral memory.

Perhaps it is the Line itself—ecuador, equator, latitude zero, the pathway of the sun. Who crosses it? Whom does it touch?