A North Atlantic Wall by Donald Wellman


In “A North Atlantic Wall” the poetry is drawn from fieldnotes, ragged prose, some passages displaying a resonant, if fragmentary, intensity. The elements of “A North Atlantic Wall” may appear to be disjointed, but the order is that of a periplum and the resonance is often transhistorical, reaching toward a conception of an immanent domain beyond the serried mountaintops. Two landscapes give particular shape to the itinerary of “A North Atlantic Wall”: the Camino from Negreira near Santiago de Compostela to Fisterra (that is going away from Santiago de Compostela and toward Fisterra, the western most point of continental Europe) and the footpaths in the vicinity of Gósol in the Pre-Pyrenees. Other sites form segments of an imaginary chain between Fisterra and Gósol, notably the valley of the Curueño in Northern León. Trace a line from Fisterra, extending through the mountains of Northern León (the Picos de Europa), and continuing easterly along the Pyrenees to Gósol. That line, wavering as it does, separates Spain from the rest of Europe.



Donald Wellman’s A North Atlantic Wall comes to us now as a rare & powerful example of the artist/poet/traveler in motion – a complex & dazzling & always surprising walk around a profoundly observed & imagined Spanish landscape, turned into a space where historic and ethnopoetic images surface & penetrate the presentday realities of both the writer & the reader. He is as good at this as any now among us, behind him & us a storied trail of predecessors – Olson, Pound, Cendrars, Césaire – who made of place a springboard into other times & worlds. The work, for all of that, is as original as it gets, his testimony now revealed (again) for all of us. —Jerome Rothenberg

Donald Wellman notes that his North Atlantic Wall is similar to that of a periplum, a term from Pound’s Cantos meaning a map of the land as a ship approaches it, drawn from a point at sea. The poet, then, is always in the process of mapping his way. Part epic history lesson, part ethnography, part journal, all parts suffused with surprising lyric intensity, this work is indeed in the tradition of the Cantos, of Olson’s Maximus Poems, of the visionary sequences of Nathaniel Tarn. Readers may lose themselves in it, but Wellman will always be there to guide them. —Norman Finkelstein

In A North Atlantic Wall Don Wellman maps a remarkable geography. The deeper interest of this poetry, however, belongs to places that are not on the map. —Don Byrd


Parador de los Reyes Católicos

Never will I speak again, as I have before,
of silver, gold, or fancy jewels, the golden cockerel on the poet’s shelf.
These to other provinces belong than mine.
Mine the pilgrim’s staff, conch shell from Fisterra.
Not mine the cudgels laid upon the immigrants
whose raft capsized off North Atlantic islands
Mine the crusty bread: cheese, onions, wild chanterelles
shared on a homely bench with friends and refugees.


Donald WellmanDonald Wellman lives in Weare NH. Other books of poetry include Fields (Light and Dust: Milwaukee, 1995) and Prolog Pages (Ahadada: Tokyo and Toronto, 2009). For may years, he edited O.ARS, a series of annual anthologies exploring concepts bearing on postmodern poetics. Notable numbers of O.ARS include Coherence (1981), Translations: Experiments in Reading (1983, 1984, 1986), and Frames, Forms, and Meaning (1993). He has translated from several languages, most recently Gravestones / Lápidas from the Spanish of Anthony Gamoneda (University of New Orleans Press, 2009). His prose includes essays on American modernist poets (Pound, Williams, Olson). He has also written on the trans-national poetries and the visual arts of the Caribbean and Latin America.

Additional information

Weight 9 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in