RABIES (1975)

Rabies review

The Globe & Mail
June 28, 1975

By Tom Walmsley
Pulp Press, 85 pages, $2 paperback

Reviewed by Janis Rapoport

Rabies, the disease that is, is symptomatically characterized by irritability, restlessness and melancholy. As the central nervous system succumbs to the effects of the virus. the irritability progresses into a state of wild terror which is itself followed by paralysis and death.

Metaphorically speaking, Walmsley’s Rabies is infused mainly with the more grotesque and static aspects or the disease. Many or the poems in this volume are purely pornographic. They deal with sadism, masochism, group obscenities and generally bizarre sexual activities. Unfortunately these encounters are described with a flatness that is so non-erotic it barely manages to titillate.

Such is the poet’s obsession with sexuality that commonplace objects take on deviant overtones. In the poem As Good an Offer as Any, a vacuum cleaner assumes the role of a pursuing lover. Abstractions arc not spared either. The protagonist of the poem Love kisses a “commercial potential” and fondles a publicity campaign!

(several paragraphs follow, and then the conclusion…)

Much or Walmsley’s poetry echoes the drug-induced transcriptions or the sixties. From an altered slate of consciousness, words and lines of brilliance and depth may appear to flow onto the page. Considered in the context of reality, however, they are not special. And the associative gaps between them are often too wide to be coherently bridged by the reader’s imagination.

Two poems

As Good an Offer as Any

I was chased by a vacuum cleaner

of many arms

all attachments attached

that sucked up my breath as I ran

stronger as I am weaker

and just when




and I thought

I may as well crank till I die

tentacles took me

in machine embrace

and next to the steely warm body

I was pressed






looking for a handle

any handle

day to day jerking of the levers

am i what.

i kissed her commercial potential

fondling her publicity campaign

to at last

liquidate her assets

and broke the bank

she ate my self-respect

manipulated my image:

she found it!

jerked the handle —

and sucked my niche.