Tag Archives: The Irrationalist – poetry

Is what we perceive what we really see? | Review of “The Irrationalist” by Suzanne Buffam (2010) House of Anansi

Is what we perceive what we really see? When we look at something do we really and truly understand it? Or are we misjudging and dismissing items that are really important. These are the types of questions that come up when one reads Suzanne Buffam excellent collection of poetry called The Irrationalist.

Ruined Interior (Excerpt) Page 3

In the beginning was the world

Then the new world.

Then the new world order

Which resembles the old one,

Doesn’t it? Its crumbling

Aqueducts. It trinkets and shingles.

Its pathways lacquered in fog.

If all we’ve done is blink a bit

And touch things,

Notice how dust describes

A tin can by not falling

Where it sits, or how a red sleeve

Glimpsed through curtains

Mimics the tip of a flickering

Wing, was the whole day a waste

Or can worth be conferred

on a less than epic urge? Bow-wow

Says the doggie on page two.

Buffam has a frank style here but still at times can be mind-blowing with a turn of a phrase. Each and every line can make a reader pause and think.

On Necessity (Page 29)

As a young man Galileo

Understood very well

The workings of the pendulum

But not until he was an old man


The hour

Of his death

Did he devise

The pendulum clock


On First Lines (Page 34)

The first line should pry up

A little corner of the soul

As the first ray of daylight

Pries open the sleeper’s lids.


The mind’s eye is certainly opened a few times by these poems. The words need to be read and re-read to completely gain the meanings but the thoughts are profound.

The Wise Man (Page 61)

I am not a wise man. This makes my life difficult in certain ways. But in other ways it simplifies things. I find it hard to sit still very long before I get up and wander the halls in my hat for example. On the other hand I stay warm and keep moving. Could these ways be the same way? A wise man could tell you. A wise an would look out his window and see not a row of low clouds rolling east like a trainload of coal through a crossroads, but a lit glimpse of the infinite, the wise man’s only home. A wise man might think of his childhood and smile. Often in a quandary I ask myself what would a wise man do? A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees, said a wise man, and when I look out at the spruce I wonder what a wise man sees. A wise man might laugh at such questions. As for me I laugh often, but I don’t get the joke.


The Irrationalist by Suzanne Buffam is a frank and eye-opening read. It questions in many cases what we perceive and makes one think. Definitely a great piece of literature.


Link to House of Anansi’s  page for The Irrationalist