Geomantic riposte: 'Undark'

Sandy Pool hails from Erin, Ontario and is a holder of the prestigious Killam scholarship in poetics at the University of Calgary. Her first book Exploding Into Night was short-listed for the 2010 Governor General’s Award for poetry and Undark: An Oratorio was short-listed for an Alberta Book Award for Poetry and the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Pool’s impressive background in many areas of theatre performance, creative writing, and libretto crafting lend a Euripidean sensibility and dramatic force to the latter marvel. Author Alessandro Porco gets at the core of Undark for Open Book Toronto:

The ostensible subject matter of Undark is the history of radium-dial painters in the United States and Canada during the first half of the twentieth century. In a prefatory note to her collection, Pool explains how Austrian-born Dr. Sabin Von Sochocky invented glow-in-the-dark paint to be used in “watch dials for soldiers and civilians.” In turn, an exclusively-female workforce, known as Radium Women (“between the ages of eleven and forty five”), used fine brushes to mass-produce the watch-dials.

Pool’s beguiling, beautiful, and chilling oratorio vividly animates personae who speak through the flame (or disturbing glow), further fascinating with the inclusion of the fragmentary voice of the “small dark one” Sappho, drawing a continuous parallel between the destruction of the poet’s words and the catastrophic decay of these Radium Women. Undark would leave me uncharacteristically textless, were it not for lovely Sappho thinking of us way back when.

Undark by Sandy Pool (Nightwood Editions, 2012)


The light falters all







broken tooth

small box






[                                             ] surprise





I know

what Knentkaues


 [                                                                                       ] about scandal


Geomantic Riposte: Harbour


       ] dear undark [             ] with some luck

                hold [ the harbour ]               dark [ soil ]

       seafarers [ unsure ]              magnificent gusts

               on dry land         sail            burdensome

       since    [ in flux ]         many [ shipments ]

                  [ deeds ]                        dry land [