The inspirations that mold a poet’s thoughts and the meanings behind what his or her words actually say form a question mark which anyone who has taken a literature course of any kind is familiar with. The notion that anyone can clearly know what a poet is absolutely thinking is something that is arbitrarily tossed about at all levels of study. Does the Toy Cannon Fire Still at Night? is poet and writer Thomas Porky McDonald’s answer to those who would assume to understand exactly what any poet might be saying or thinking. Taken from his first 15 books of poetry, written between the years 1989 and 1999, this volume gives you the actual stories behind 62 different (mostly) baseball-related pieces that the (always) curious ballpark wanderer has written. How, why, when and where each poem was written is offered up, in reply to a handful of friends who independently of one another each inquired about the origins of different pieces.
McDonald’s point appears to be that any good poetry can be interpreted in a number of ways. Although where particular verses came from is a definitive place, the origins are rarely given to the public first hand, but only in reflective forwards of anthologies, where someone other than the artist gives their opinion on what it all means. In the Toy Cannon collection, poems written in the wake of decades of the earliest stored memories of the game of McDonald’s youth parallel with numerous pieces created (conversely) on a sudden and electric impulse. The realm of those no longer with us also chimes in, as a slew of memorial tributes offer up the most vibrantly raw and personally inspired pieces of the poet’s work. The result is a most interesting book, which could serve as a primer for all other past, present and future collections released by this often pensive, generally joyous and always reflective Irish troubadour. If nothing else, this volume can help break down not only what resides in this particular man’s soul, but maybe even give us pause to look more closely and carefully at any poetry that we might come across, especially that which touches us.